Stakeholders Provide Testimony In Support Of Online Casinos In Ohio

Written By Mike Breen on February 23, 2024 - Last Updated on February 26, 2024
A picture of a presentation for a story about the presentation by Ohio stakeholders about online casinos.

In a public hearing on Feb. 20, gaming industry stakeholders and lobbyists provided Ohio lawmakers testimony to support online casinos.

Michelle MacGregor of the Sports Betting Alliance gave in-person testimony on iGaming at the nearly two-hour hearing, PlayUSA reported. The only other in-person testimony came from the Ohio Casino Control Commission’s Matthew Schuler, who gave a presentation outlining the current regulatory landscape in the state.

Ohio created the Study Commission on the Future of Gaming in Ohio to inform lawmakers as they consider adding online casino gambling.

Lawmakers not expected to introduce online casino legislation this year

Even though real-money Ohio online casinos remain illegal, sweepstakes and social casinos are open to players in the Buckeye State. Most offer prizes that players can redeem for real money.

The commission must present its final findings and recommendations by June 30. No bill legalizing online casinos in Ohio is expected to be put forth in the General Assembly in 2024.

Earlier this year, state Rep. Jay Edwards told PlayUSA that the hearings were more about laying the groundwork for future legislation, which could be proposed as early as next year.

“What we’re trying to do is start the conversation, get best practices, educate members and allow regulators some input on the process so that when we are ready, we can start to implement that.”

SBA says online casino transition would be smooth in Ohio

Written testimony regarding online casinos was provided to the study commission by iGaming software company Playtech and gaming corporations Caesars Entertainment and Boyd Gaming.

iDEA Growth also submitted testimony. It describes itself as “the leading lobbying entity advocating for online gaming in the US.” In its testimony, iDEA Growth outlined the general theme of the Feb. 20 hearing.

“We urge the Study Commission to consider the robust evidence supporting iGaming’s economic benefits, its complementary relationship with land-based casinos, and the importance of regulating this sector to combat offshore gaming and ensure consumer protection.”

The Sports Betting Alliance (SBA) presentation explained how online casinos’ regulatory framework and technology mirror online sports betting, which has been in place in Ohio for more than a year. SBA suggested the established sports betting system would lead to a smooth transition to online casinos in the state. For operators with both sports betting and online casino products, customers could easily access both through the same accounts and apps.

SBA members include iGaming operators DraftKings, FanDuel, Fanatics and BetMGM. All four have Ohio online sportsbooks but also online casino products in other jurisdictions.

According to the SBA, a regulated online casino market in Ohio would help push out unsafe illegal operations. SBA says they generate $621 million a year. According to the SBA’s report, legal online casinos could generate between $205 and $410 million in new tax revenue.

Testimony addresses ‘cannibalization’ concerns

The SBA presentation also addressed concerns that iCasinos would “cannibalize” business at brick-and-mortar casinos. The SBA asserted that online casinos actually boost retail performance.

“The majority consensus from recent studies conclude that iGaming expands the overall gaming market and increases the growth rates of overall gaming revenues.”

Other testimony offered to the study commission at the hearing echoed many of the SBA’s sentiments. Boyd Gaming, which owns 28 casinos in 11 states, including the racino at Belterra Park in Cincinnati, said online casinos were the logical next step for the gaming industry.

“We believe that (online casinos are) highly complementary to our existing land-based operations, and an opportunity to engage our customers while they are not physically at our properties. We have seen benefits with customer acquisition, retention and marketing from our Stardust iGaming platform in Pennsylvania, where we also operate our Valley Forge Casino near Philadelphia.”

To ensure such synergy exists in Ohio, Caesars Entertainment recommended limiting online casino licenses to retail casinos and racinos, something the SBA also encouraged.

“iGaming should be used to drive increased business at existing brick-and-mortar licensees, which promotes job creation and increases economic benefits to states and host communities.”

The bi-partisan Study Commission on the Future of Gaming contains eight members from both Ohio General Assembly chambers and is co-chaired by Edwards and state Sen. Nathan Manning. There will be three more public hearings on different topics through April.

  • iLottery
  • sports betting
  • charitable gaming
  • daily fantasy sports
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Written by
Mike Breen

Mike Breen covers Ohio’s budding sports betting industry for PlayOhio, focusing on online sportsbooks and the state’s responsible gambling initiatives. He has over two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture in Ohio.

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