Ohio Senate Makes Changes To Sports Betting Bill, Eyes Passage Soon

Posted By Matthew Kredell on June 10, 2021

For the past three weeks, the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming heard industry feedback on its sports betting bill. Wednesday, the committee released a substitute bill that mostly ignored their requests.

Ohio sports teams and casinos/racinos asked for assurance that they will receive Ohio sports betting retail licenses. They were denied.

Casinos requested that Ohio online sports betting licenses be tethered to gaming companies that have already made significant investments in the state. The committee said no way.

The lottery operator and retailers begged for a better system than the fixed-bet sports lottery pool model. They got nothing.

The months of Ohio gaming committee hearings are soon to come to an end. The committee plans to vote out a bill Tuesday and have it passed by the Senate on Wednesday.

Changes in Ohio sports betting substitute

The Senate committee did show that they heard previous testimony, addressing a couple concerns from sports teams and casinos. They also made a few curious changes seemingly asked for by no one.

Here are the key changes to S 176:

  • Limits Type A mobile license holders to two skins, one at launch and the other a year after launch.
  • Added esports and horse betting to permitted wagers.
  • Type A mobile, Type B retail and management service providers pay $500,000 in years two and three, following $1 million in year one.
  • Requires the name of the mobile license holder to appear on the mobile app.
  • Prohibits betting on events in which athletes under the age of 18 are competing.
  • Explains that mobile license holders can’t make trades or sell sports betting rights or access in other states.
  • Includes additional guardrails on integrity monitoring and testing equipment labs.
  • Allows no tax deduction on promotional play on sports betting for the first five years, 10% in years 6-10 and 20% from year 11 on.
  • Deleted language that eliminated tax-free promotional credits on regular casino play.
  • Limits fraternal organizations to six eBingo machines and instructs the attorney general and Casino Control Commission to work together to determine that they are not slot machines.

Sports teams had asked for licensees to be limited to one skin at launch. Previously, the bill allowed unlimited skins.

Deleting the casino promotional credit language and clarifying that that eBingo machines could not operate like slot machines were two asks of casinos and racinos.

None of main players testify on new language Thursday

Stakeholders only had a few hours to digest the bill, released late Wednesday, before a Thursday morning committee hearing for substitute reaction.

No casinos/racinos, sports teams or lottery retailers offered testimony Thursday.

Testimony came from fringe interests and problem gambling organizations asking for a percentage of tax revenue earmarked toward their efforts.

Veterans/fraternal organizations protested the cap of six eBingo machines. Said Todd Reveron, executive director of Veterans of Foreign Wars Ohio Charities:

“If this language remains in sub-Senate bill 176, please help us with our untenable decision. Who should we cut? Should we tell the family seeking healthcare services from the VA that we can’t help them pay for the care, or would you have us not bury a fallen family member? Maybe we should turn our back on the Gold Star family or the wounded warrior. Those are the real choices that will result from limits on machines in our posts.”

Reveron asked for no limits, or a limit similar to the 18 made in Virginia.

What’s next for Ohio sports betting effort

Sen. Kirk Schuring, chair of the committee, explained that interested parties have until 4 p.m. Friday to offer amendments. Those amendments will be considered and acted on Tuesday.

Eric Schippers of Penn National Gaming, which owns four casinos/racinos in the state, told PlayOhio that one change the company will seek is around marketing efforts. Allowing for no promotional play tax credit at launch and adding it later seems counterintuitive to building a new market.

“We plan to continue to educate lawmakers on the value of tax-free promo credits, particularly in the early years to help incentive customers who have been wagering in adjacent states that allow tax-free promotional credits,” Schippers said. “Ohio will be at a significant disadvantage if we’re not able to compete on a level playing field from a marketing standpoint.

After considering amendments, Schuring indicated that the committee will vote out a sports betting bill Tuesday.

“We will convene our last hearing on Tuesday of next week at a time yet to be determined,” Schuring said. “Our goal is to vote the bill out on Tuesday, put it on the Senate floor on Wednesday and move it over to the House because we want to get something done by June 30.”

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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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