Substitute OH Betting Bill Still Leaves Questions, Like If Ford Can Have a Sportsbook

Written By Matthew Kredell on May 13, 2021
Ohio Sportsbook Legislation

Ohio lawmakers discussed changes to their just-introduced Senate sports betting bill Wednesday at a Select Committee on Gaming meeting.

Sponsoring senators Niraj Antani and Nathan Manning addressed S 176 in front of colleagues at a meeting that lasted less than 15 minutes.

The committee adopted a substitute attempting to clarify a few confusing issues in the original bill, which was not vetted through the industry.

The fireworks will have to wait until next week when interested parties weigh in on the sports betting bill.

Five changes to Ohio sports betting bill

As reported by PlayOhio earlier in the week, the substitute made five key changes:

  1. Clarified that Type A mobile licensees can offer an unlimited number of apps.
  2. Requires that Type A mobile licensees have a physical presence in the state.
  3. Allows casinos/racinos to get Type B physical licenses.
  4. Makes economic development a consideration for Type B licenses.
  5. Instructs that Type B licenses be distributed equitably among all regions of the state.

Ford as a sports betting licensee in Ohio?

Even after the substitute, there’s confusion as to what companies are eligible for a Type A online wagering license.

The substitute uses the language that a Type A sports gaming agent shall meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • The Type A sports gaming agent also shall operate a sports gaming facility under a type B sports gaming agent license. A person may simultaneously apply for, and be issued, both a type A and a type B sports gaming agent license in order to satisfy the requirements of this division.
  • The Type A sports gaming agent shall maintain at least one place of business in this state, including a secure facility to house the servers responsible for accepting wagers through the sports gaming agent’s online sports pools.

Manning didn’t exactly clear up the confusion when he brought up Ford Motor Company as a potential licensee.

“For the Type A, it just clarified that you do need to have some sort of presence in Ohio. So while we are not requiring these Type A licenses to be tethered to a racino/casino, they could certainly use them as the presence or they can use some other presence. Whether they want to set up shop here themselves, or somebody threw out the example if Ford wanted to get a License A, somebody that has people working and a presence here in Ohio.”

Antani added: “It’ can’t just be an untethered online mobile application that has no presence in Ohio.”

Manning concluded: “We want a free market, but we also don’t want the wild, wild west.”

More Ohio sports betting bill changes expected

Committee chairman Kirk Schuring, conspicuously absent from Wednesday’s hearing, has said this won’t be the final iteration of the bill.

There’s no doubt that interested parties will be seeking some changes next week.

Issues that could come up include:

  • While free-market access is admirable, is no cap on online skins really the way to go?
  • Better defining the companies permitted to get sports betting licenses.
  • License cost: An Ohio online sportsbook license, particularly with unlimited skins, is worth much more than a physical license. Currently, each costs $1 million over three years.
  • Do casinos need to pay $1 million for every brick-and-mortar facility plus mobile? If so, Penn National Gaming, with four properties in Ohio, could be paying $5 million every three years.
Photo by AP / Gene J. Puskar
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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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