Ohio Senate Makes Sports Betting Offer It Hopes House ‘Cannot Refuse’

Written By Matthew Kredell on June 25, 2021

Ohio Senate and House leaders appear to have reached a deal to legalize sports betting before going on summer break.

The Senate added sports betting language Thursday night to an unrelated House bill to create veteran identification cards, then passed the legislation 31-0.

The House now only needs to concur with H 29, a bill it already passed. An industry source indicates that should happen Friday or Monday.

Speaking for the bill on the Senate floor, Sen. Kirk Schuring, who chaired the Senate Select Committee on Gaming that worked on the issue for four months, said Ohio was on the threshold of legalized Ohio sports betting.

“I think this is an amendment to this bill that hopefully the House cannot refuse. It’s good policy, and hopefully once and for all we’ll have this done and we can see sports gaming in Ohio sometime in 2022.”

Ohio sports betting changes favor casinos/racinos

The sports betting bill passed by the Senate earlier this month took a surprisingly antagonistic approach to the state’s four casinos and seven racinos. It gave sports teams preferred standing for licenses. And it limited licenses per county in a way that could lock casinos/racinos out of having retail sportsbooks.

Schuring said he and Senate President Matt Huffman negotiated with key members of the House to make changes.

Here are the highlights of the changes:

  • Casinos/racinos join sports teams in receiving preferred standing for licenses.
  • Increases Type B brick-and-mortar licenses from 33 to 40.
  • Counties with more than 800,000 people can have five retail sportsbooks, at least 400,000 get three sportsbooks, and at least 100,000 get one.
  • Casinos/racinos can have two mobile skins from launch, sports teams one mobile skin. Previous language provided one skin for each, with another available after a year.
  • For sports organizations, lowers the costs of the 25 Type A mobile licenses to $1 million over three years. Mobile licenses for others remain at $2 million.
  • Conversely, management services providers still pay $2 million over three years to partner with a sports organization, but only $1 million over three years to partner with others.
  • Management services providers wishing to partner with Type B licensees now pay $100,000 for a three-year license, renewable for $25,000. Previously, these fees were the same as for mobile.
  • As before, 98% of state revenue on sports betting goes to K-12 education. Now half that money is earmarked for extracurricular and sports activities.
  • The fee for bars and restaurants to have sports betting kiosks was lowered from $6,000 to $2,000.
  • Adds official league data provisions stopping short of mandating the data be used for in-play wagers, but allowing the Ohio Casino Control Commission to require it.

Ohio sports betting agreement comes as surprise

Entering Thursday, all signs pointed to no sports betting passage until the fall.

House Speaker Bob Cupp even said so prior to the Senate maneuver.

“I think that would be an extremely high lift. We have not even had an opportunity for a single committee hearing over here on sports betting. I just can’t see it getting done. Would I like to do it? Sure, but I’d like to have it go through committee, have hearings, and that sort of thing as well.”

Apparently, Cupp wasn’t involved in negotiating the changes, which means House concurrence isn’t a sure thing. According to the Statehouse News Bureau, Schuring responded to Cupp’s statement with:

“We have certain key members in the House that we’ve talked to, negotiated with, who now support the legislation and we’re hoping that those members can also apprise Speaker Cupp of the developments, movement, progress we’ve made and we need to get it done.”

Cupp previously said that “the goal of getting sports betting done before we recess for the summer is a high priority.”

Now that there’s language supported by all stakeholders, there’s no apparent obstacle in the way of the House achieving that goal.

Sen. Kenny Yuko spoke for the casinos on the Senate floor prior to passage of the original bill. Thursday, he gave the new language the casino stamp of approval:

“We had something that last week I stood on the floor and thought I saw some problems with it. And I’m proud to stand on the floor and say to my good friend that is Kirk Schuring, ‘Thank you.’ And good job for all people involved, and let’s wrap this up so I can go to the casino on the way home.”

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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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