Ohio Betting Bill Aims To Include Everyone, But Pleases Almost No One

Posted By Matthew Kredell on May 6, 2021

Ohio finally has sports betting legislation for 2021.

In the long-awaited Senate sports betting bill announced Thursday, wagering can take place on 20 mobile apps, an additional 20 retail facilities, and through lottery retailers in a limited form.

Sen. Kirk Schuring announced the bill at a morning press conference. Chairman of the Select Committee on Gaming, Schuring worked all session to develop an inclusive gambling expansion bill for Ohio.

The 11 casinos and racinos in Ohio would be able to partner with sportsbook operators for Type A licenses. However, those licenses aren’t tethered to brick-and-mortar casinos. And, with the Type A licenses specifying mobile, its unclear where physical sports betting at casinos fits in.

“We’re going to let the free market decide that,” Schuring said. “If they want to contract with a mobile application, those entities can do that. We have 11 in Ohio today, racinos and casinos. But we believe in a free market. So if there’s another entity out there right now, notwithstanding those 11 that we’re talking about, who can come up with that money to bank the bet, come to Ohio.”

Details of Ohio Senate sports betting bill

The Ohio Senate sports betting bill is jointly sponsored by Sens. Niraj Antani and Nathan Manning, who were on the select committee.

Here are some of the key details for S 176:

  • Breaks up sports betting licenses into Type A and Type B.
  • Type A consists of 20 mobile licensees who can operate one online sports website and an accompanying mobile app under one brand name per licensee.
  • Twenty Type B licensees can operate one retail sports gaming facility. These facilities may not be located at a casino or racino.
  • The Ohio Casino Control Commission (CCC) oversees sports betting with Type A and Type B licensees.
  • Type A and Type B licensees pay $1 million for a three-year license.
  • Sports betting is taxed at 10% on sports gaming receipts. Of that revenue, 98% goes to funding K-12 education, and 2% to a problem gambling fund.
  • Permits all wagering on college athletics. The CCC could still limit wagering on college sports.
  •  There’s no official league data requirement, but a central monitoring system runs through the CCC.
  • Allows the Ohio Lottery Commission to operate a sports gaming lottery taking $20 fixed bets on the outcomes of sporting events.

Schuring indicated that Type B licensees can include Ohio’s professional sports teams, which asked to participate as licensees during the hearing.

The bill also includes eBingo for fraternal and veterans organizations and sets up a select committee to look into online lottery games.

Legislation crafted after many public hearings

The Select Committee on Gaming held eight hearings and heard from about 50 witnesses. Most of them wanted to participate in sports betting.

Lottery vendors, most of them small businesses in Ohio such as bowling alleys, grocery, and convenience stores, argued for participation.

In the first hearing, casino representatives made the case that these facilities didn’t have the infrastructure to prevent money laundering and detect problem gamblers put in place at casinos.

Ohio’s sports teams asked for licenses including mobile and retail wagering.

In the bill, no one seems to be getting exactly what they wanted. The bill limits the lottery’s sports betting offerings and doesn’t tether mobile to casinos and sports teams. Schuring said sports teams could apply for either license, but it’s unclear how they will fit in.

“This is a different paradigm,” Schuring said. “Listening to my committee members and the senate president, it’s all about the free market. We’re not going to prescribe into law special considerations for entities that, I’ll be frank, some of them who years ago went into the ballot and enshrined into our constitution special privileges. We’ll work with them, but they’re going to have to compete in the marketplace.”

For the lottery, Schuring stressed that he didn’t want the lottery taking the risk of oddsmaking. Through fixed wagers, the money goes into a sports betting pool and the lottery takes a fee from each $20 ticket purchased. The remaining money goes into a pool paid out equally among winning bettors on that game. Lottery sports gaming will have a minimum age requirement of 21, not the 18 on other lottery games.

Ohio sports betting bill more inclusive than last year

At one point, it appeared a near lock that Ohio would pass sports betting legislation last year. That law would have looked quite different.

After the House passed a sports betting bill last May, bill sponsors in each chamber got together over the summer and worked out their differences.

The final Senate substitute limited sports betting to Ohio’s 11 casinos and racinos with one online skin available for each. So Ohio would have ended up with 11 sports betting apps and 11 retail locations.

Maryland is another state that would have limited sports betting to casinos and racetracks last year, but this year passed an inclusive bill permitting more than 100 potential licensees.

What’s next for Ohio sports betting

Now that the Senate bill is out, the Select Committee on Gaming will reconvene next week to discuss the results.

Since the language wasn’t vetted through stakeholders prior to its release, expect a lively discussion.

Once people are heard, the committee will consider any changes before moving the bill to the Senate floor.

Schuring hopes to pass the legislation and get it signed by the governor before the legislature recesses for the summer.

“We think we’ve got a very good basis to get this done, and we’re anxious not to just work with the committee but with our colleagues in the House and the governor’s office to get it done before the end of June,” Schuring said.

Schuring consulted with Senate President Matt Huffman, who spoke at the beginning of Thursday’s press conference, in drafting the bill.

The House is working on introducing its own bill sponsored by Reps. Jay Edwards and Brigid Kelly. House Speaker Bob Cupp also has indicated that it’s a priority to get sports betting done before the summer recess.

Gov. Mike DeWine recently called the legalization of sports betting “inevitable.”

Photo by AP / Aaron Doster
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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