Latest Ohio Sports Betting Changes Have Penn National Fired Up

Posted By Matthew Kredell on June 16, 2021

Ohio’s potential sports betting participants are going up, up and away.

The Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming increased mobile and retail sports wagering licenses in a wide-ranging omnibus amendment Tuesday.

The committee then voted unanimously to report favorably on S 176 following months of hearings. During those hearings, Ohio casinos, racinos, and sports teams asked to limit licenses to each other.

Instead, Ohio could have one of the most robust sports betting markets in the country. The bill allows for 25 mobile licenses, 33 retail-only licenses, and sports betting kiosks at potentially thousands of bars and restaurants across the state.

“By the way, we’re against exclusivity,” committee chair Sen. Kirk Schuring said in an understatement. “You’re going to see that across this bill and this omnibus amendment.”

The increased licenses appear to provide room for all the major players in Ohio and more to participate. However, priority given to sports teams combined with county limits on sports betting licenses are concerning to Ohio casinos and racinos.

The committee advanced the bill favorably to the Committee on Rules and Reference, a procedural stop on the way to the Senate floor. Schuring previously mentioned the possibility of S 176 getting a Senate vote as soon as Wednesday. Lawmakers expressed a goal of having the bill through both chambers by the June 30 summer recess.

Ohio sports betting changes

The committee made significant changes in its final amendment before pushing the bill forward. They include:

  • Increasing Type A mobile licenses from 20 to 25.
  • Increasing Type B retail licenses from 20 to 33.
  • Creating a Type C license providing a maximum of two kiosks at Class D liquor license permit holders. Those include bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.
  • Ohio professional sports teams, PGA golf, and NASCAR events receive preference in obtaining their choice of a Type A or Type B license.
  • Separates management services provider licenses into mobile and retail. Each license requires $1 million in the first year and $500,000 in the second and third years. They are renewable every three years in the same manner. If a management service provider wants to offer sports gaming on behalf of Type A and Type B proprietors, it must obtain both licenses.
  • Increases the cap on eBingo machines allowed at veterans and fraternal organizations from 6 to 10.

An amendment made last week stipulated that Type A licensees can offer one skin at launch and a second skin a year later. This means Ohio could reach 50 mobile sports betting apps.

Amendment spreads out retail sports betting licenses

Lawmakers made an effort to ensure retail sports wagering establishments are spread throughout the state, not clustered in population centers.

  • Counties with a population more than 1 million shall have no more than three Type B licenses.
  • Counties with populations between 500,000 and 1 million can have up to two Type B licenses.
  • For counties with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, Type B licenses are limited to one.
  • And Type B licenses can’t be located in counties with populations under 100,000.
  • Sports gaming proprietors wishing to operate a Type B facility pay $100,000 for an initial license renewable every three years for $50,000.
  • The Ohio Casino Control Commission decides how many Type B proprietors a licensed management services provider may contract with.

New language could keep casinos/racinos from retail market

While the committee gave sports teams preferential standing, the bill doesn’t mention Ohio’s four casinos and seven racinos.

Eric Schippers of Penn National Gaming, which operates four gaming facilities in the state, expressed the company’s frustration with PlayOhio.

“We were shocked and dismayed to see the latest changes to the bill in the Senate. The Senate is inexplicably handicapping this for the teams, the PGA and the promoter of a stock car race to get retail sports betting licenses when the fact is having a retail sportsbook in the racinos/casinos will help boost incremental revenues from the higher taxed slot machines by as much as 25% based on our experience in other states.”

Of particular concern to Schippers are the Type B county limits as they pertain to Franklin County, the state’s largest with 1.2 million people. The Columbus Blue Jackets, Columbus Crew, PGA Memorial Tournament, Scioto Downs, and PNG’s Hollywood Casino Columbus are all in Franklin County.

If there are only three Type B licenses available and the three professional sports entities get priority, the racino and casino get left out. That means Ohio could legalize sports betting without allowing a retail sportsbook at the largest casino property in the state.

“The Senate is leaving all that money on the table by trying to keep sportsbooks out of the casinos, where we spend millions annually on security, surveillance, and comprehensive responsible gaming programs to protect the integrity of gaming in Ohio,” Schippers said. “We believe the casinos/racinos should be able to operate both a mobile and a retail license. Sports betting is a complimentary amenity to casinos/racinos, as it is in every other state.”

Type C licenses replace sports lottery pool

Originally, S 176 created a fixed pool for limited sports betting participation at lottery retailers. Ohioans could buy a $20 ticket on the outcome of a game without a point spread.

But in recent weeks, representatives of Ohio lottery retailers explained the folly of this system. In betting on a heavy local favorite, participants could actually lose money while picking the winner.

So the committee came up with a new system in which lottery kiosks can take bets limited to spreads, moneyline, and over/under. There’s also a $200 daily bet limit.

The Casino Control Commission picks between three and 20 vendors to operate the Type C kiosks. The Type C vendor license costs $100,000, renewable every three years for $25,000. Any Class D liquor license holder can pay a $6,000 license fee for two kiosks, with $1,000 going to the vendor.

While this provides more sports betting opportunities for many Ohio lottery retailers, it locks out the grocery and convenience stores without bars attached.

“During a time when convenience stores, brick and mortar, small businesses and communities across Ohio are agonizing trying to keep their stores open for business, we respectfully ask that policymakers do not make matters worse for the retail convenience industry by locking them out of this opportunity,” said Ryan Howard of the Ohio Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association in the only public testimony made at the hearing.

Sorry Richard, no bets by football season

At a hearing last month, a private citizen and Vietnam veteran named Richard Pijper told the committee that he wanted regulated sports betting live in Ohio prior to the start of the college football and NFL seasons.

Many states to pass sports betting legislation this year are targeting the NFL season. It’s the most popular sport for betting in the US.

But even though Schuring and bill authors expressed urgency to finish the bill by the end of the month, it’s not with the hope of launching by football season. At least not this football season.

The amended bill specifies that sports betting applications won’t be accepted until Jan. 1, with Casino Control Commission beginning to award licenses by April 1. There goes the next Super Bowl and March Madness.

But the time frame isn’t surprising given the sheer number of licenses the Commission will issue.

“If we get this thing passed on June 30, which is our goal, it will take effect right around Oct. 1,” Schuring said. “Obviously, you’re not going to be able to hit the ground running. There are rules that have to be promulgated, applications that have to be designed and disseminated. Everybody we’ve talked to says they want an equal start time.”

Photo by Kingmaphotos | Dreamstime.com
Matthew Kredell Avatar
Written by
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.

View all posts by Matthew Kredell