There will not be a cap on mobile sports betting apps in Ohio, though participation could be limited by connection to a physical casino property.
Sen. Kirk Schuring, chairman of the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming, tells PlayOhio that his coming substitute bill will clarify that Type A mobile sports betting licensees can offer as many online skins as they want.
“Some have misinterpreted that they can only contract with one mobile operator,” Schuring said. “That’s not the intent. I clarified with them that, when the substitute version of the bill comes out, they can contract with as many mobile operators as they want. That’s the free market.”
Following eight committee hearings, Schuring held a press conference Thursday to introduce a Senate sports betting bill. Senate Bill 176 creates 20 mobile sports betting licenses, 20 Type B retail sports betting licenses, and fixed-limit lottery sports betting.
The Senate committee team did not vet the bill through the industry prior to introduction, leading to a number of issues that Schuring seeks to clarify. He will release the substitute bill Wednesday in correlation with a Select Committee on Gaming discussion of the legislation.
Physical presence required for sports betting license
In the original legislation, it wasn’t clear if Ohio’s 11 casinos and racinos would be permitted to operate a physical sportsbook.
Schuring said the substitute would fix that. He added that a company operating multiple casinos/racinos in the state would only need one Type A license. Penn National Gaming operates four casinos/racinos in Ohio. JACK Entertainment operates two. The license costs $1 million over three years.
That means there are only seven companies currently operating in Ohio to apply for the 20 Type A licenses. And Schuring told PlayOhio a Type A license requires a physical connection to Ohio.
Schuring wants companies to come to Ohio and add economic value as a result of receiving a sports betting license. New language in the substitute will instruct the Casino Control Commission to weigh applications based on economic value added.
“We want people to apply and compete, and we’ll make determinations on who offers the most economic development through the Casino Control Commission and Lottery Commission,” Schuring said.
With casinos constitutionally limited and racetracks also difficult, it’s unclear how new companies can establish physical presences in Ohio. A company willing to take bets in Ohio might be able to get a Type A license by developing a Type B facility or partnering with a Type B licensee. Sports franchises might be able to get a Type B license, then partner with a Type A licensee for mobile.
“We’re not going to prescribe special things and revise code, but there will be new opportunities for gaming in Ohio based on sports betting,” Schuring said. “It would have to be something outside what’s in statute or constitution now, something like Type B licenses. A Type B might have to contract with a type of company that can bank the bet.”
Ohio aiming for sports betting passage in June
Wednesday’s hearing commences the effort to pass an Ohio sports betting bill before the legislature breaks for summer.
Schuring made clear that he doesn’t want to hear anything from casinos/racinos about lottery participation. The bill limits sports betting lottery to $20 fixed tickets on outcomes of games.
“I don’t think casinos and racinos should be threatened by sports betting through the lottery,” Schuring said. “They’re not the same players that go to racinos and casinos.”
Reps. Jay Edwards and Brigid Kelly are working on introducing their own sports betting bill in the Ohio House. Edwards and Kelly held a series of private meetings with industry stakeholders last month.
Schuring said the urgency has nothing to do with launching Ohio sports betting by a particular sporting event. If signed into law, S 176 takes effect Jan. 1, 2022.
“What we typically do is work tenaciously the first half of the session, and when we get into the fall sessions we’re not as aggressive,” Schuring said. “So now is the time to get it done.”