When Ohio launches sports betting on Jan. 1, 2023, a portion of annual state revenues will be earmarked for military veterans in the state.
As part of the Ohio sports betting legislation’s wide-ranging framework, lawmakers created the Ohio Sports Gaming Profit Veterans Fund, an annual pool of money that will be administered by the Ohio Department of Veterans Services.
The vast majority of the funding will go to two veterans nursing homes located in Sandusky and Georgetown. Combined, the facilities provide services to over 800 veterans.
State agencies estimate that the fund will be around $350,000 over the first five-year licensing period, or around $70,000 per year. While those figures aren’t enough to build a new wing or dramatically affect a department with an annual budget of over $100 million, the funding will certainly have an impact.
Lucas Denney, chief legislative officer for the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, says:
“We’re appreciative of the legislature thinking of us, and any amount of dollars like that you can do some work with.”
The Ohio Veterans Homes mission
Ohio has over 750,000 veterans, the sixth-largest veteran population in the United States.
The Ohio Department of Veterans Services spends around 90% of its budget on two Ohio Veterans Homes in the state, one of which was founded in the late 1800s to care for Civil War veterans.
The Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky is a sprawling campus with 427 beds and has been in continuous operation since 1888.
The Georgetown veterans home was built in 2003 and offers 168 beds. Both facilities offer two levels of care: standard care and special care for those with memory care needs.
Veterans who qualify for a Veterans Administration per diem can live in the facilities for around a third of the cost of private care.
The veterans homes are the biggest responsibility of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, Denny says.
“It’s our biggest responsibility, and it’s just a really cool place, to be honest,” Denney says.
“A lot of these guys and gals, they love being around their brothers and sisters in arms and it’s a really special place when they’re in their yesteryears and they are being taken care of — but they’re also around their war buddies swapping stories and stuff. It’s a really really cool part of government spending, and it’s a great way to give back to our veterans.”
Two distinct veterans homes, one goal
The veterans homes in Sandusky and Georgetown couldn’t be more different from the outside.
In addition to being more than 100 years older than Georgetown, Sandusky’s home occupies a vast campus in a city setting with a more intricate design after multiple expansions over the years.
Georgetown’s facility isn’t even 20 years old, and it is located in a more rural area in Brown County, just east of Cincinnati in a more idyllic, farm-like setting.
“They couldn’t be more different in that regard,” says Jeff Rapp, chief communications officer for the Ohio Department of Veterans Services. “But they’re still the same in that it’s all about treating veterans from wartime that need help.”
The admission requirements to live in an Ohio Veterans Home are:
- A veteran who served during a period of conflict as defined by the United States Congress, or was awarded either the Armed Forces Expeditionary medal or the Vietnam Service medal
- Honorably discharged or separated under honorable conditions; been a resident of Ohio for at least one year
- Disabled by disease, wounds or disability, and by reason of such conditions, incapable of earning a living
- Member of the National Guard, Ohio Military Reserve or Ohio Naval Militia who has lost an arm, leg, sight or become permanently disabled while in the line of duty and not able to support themselves
According to the department of veterans services, each facility emphasizes privacy, encourages independence, provides comfort and security, and meets social needs.
An important supplement to military benefits
Most military benefits come from the federal budget, including health care and retirement benefits. Counties in Ohio also help, often by advocating for veterans and connecting them to federal resources.
In addition to operating the veterans homes, the Ohio Department of Veterans Services performs other roles, including:
- Assisting veterans and active military families with benefit identification and claims assistance
- Administering the Ohio Veterans Bonus Program, which provides a bonus to qualifying Ohio veterans who served in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq conflicts
- Partnering with the state’s 88 county veterans service commissions
- Monitoring federal veterans’ education programs
The nursing homes are the department’s No. 1 priority, so any additional revenue from the Ohio Sports Gaming Profit Veterans Fund helps.
“It’s definitely something we’re appreciative of,” Denney says.
“There’s always something that can be fixed or spruced up or something that we can do to improve our residents’ and our veterans’ lives.”
Where the Ohio Sports Betting Profit Veterans Fund came from
Ohio’s sports betting law, HB 29, created a wide-ranging framework for sports betting in the state, including everything from brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, Ohio sports betting apps and hundreds if not thousands of betting kiosks at local bars and restaurants.
Within the rules, regulations and tax implications of the bill, legislators included a provision allocating 0.5% of the license fees paid by sports betting proprietors to the Ohio Sports Gaming Profit Veterans Fund. Those businesses pay an annual renewal fee after paying for the initial license.
State Sen. Theresa Gavarone represents Ohio Senate District 2, which includes Sandusky.
Gavarone was a co-sponsor of HB 29 and says legalizing sports betting was a natural next step after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 struck down a federal ban on state authorization of sports betting. She supported the bill in part because the sports betting industry will provide revenue for things like schools and veterans.
“This allocation, in addition to providing more money to the Veterans Home, is going to help fund job training, unemployment assistance, counseling, and family support programs among many other things,” Gavarone says of the Ohio Sports Gaming Profit Veterans Fund.
Gavarone says the veterans home in Sandusky is a vital part of the community.
“Important. Imperative. Vital. Whatever word you want to use, that describes how meaningful the Veterans Home is to me and the communities I represent,” Gavarone says.
“This is a facility consisting of over 400 beds dedicated to providing nursing home-level care to people who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. We owe these men and women a debt, and I think facilities that provide this level of care are critical now and as we look towards the future.”
The three other legislators representing Sandusky and Georgetown in the state legislature, State Sen. Terry Johnson, State Rep. Adam Bird and State Rep. D.J. Swearington, also voted in favor of HB 20.
When will sports betting be live in Ohio?
Ohio’s universal sports betting launch date is Jan. 1, 2023.
The Ohio Casino Control Commission is currently accepting license applications for:
- Retail sportsbooks
- Online sportsbooks
- Betting kiosk operators
Once licensed, businesses will focus on building new retail spaces, distributing kiosks, hiring and training employees, announcing partnerships and marketing to new customers ahead of Jan. 1.
Every major online sports betting operator is expected to enter the Ohio sports betting market. Each of Ohio’s professional sports franchises and casinos and racinos is likely to add a brick-and-mortar sportsbook.