Ohio Senate Committee On Sports Betting Off To Slow Start

Posted on February 12, 2021

At this rate, the Cleveland Browns may win a Super Bowl before the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming puts out sports betting legislation.

The committee met for the second time Wednesday. Last week’s meeting was a mere five-minute introduction to the process from chair Kirk Schuring. This time, the committee heard testimony from just two witnesses.

Part of the issue with the slow start is that, despite the ongoing pandemic, the committee requires witnesses to testify in person. Remote testimony is not permitted.

This week’s hearing featured representatives from two of the state casino/racino companies: Eric Schippers from Penn National Gaming and Rick Limardo from MGM.

Focus of Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming

In his introduction to the committee, Schuring mentioned that the scope of its review would be sports betting and online bingo. Schuring added that the committee would meet every Wednesday at 4 p.m. until “we have the backlog of evidence to cobble together some legislation.”

Senate President Matt Huffman ordered the creation of the committee. Schuring explained that the committee would consult with the Huffman to make sure any legislation it proposes has his support.

Schuring added about the future committee bill:

“Because it’s coming from a legislative body, I think the chances are going to be much greater that it will be enacted into law.”

Some issues become apparent in committee on gaming

Committee members expressed interest in allowing Ohio’s veteran and fraternal halls to offer e-bingo. In the sports betting bill passed by the House last year, veteran and fraternal halls could have sports betting kiosks. But their participation was removed in the Senate substitute.

An attempted compromise appears to provide the organizations e-bingo. However, Schippers and Limardo expressed concern that language in draft proposals they’ve seen could be interpreted to allow the equivalent of a slot machine.

Schippers said Penn supports the veteran and fraternal halls and just wants to see that language clarified. Sen. Louis Blessing III expressed his preference that sports betting gets done in its own bill.

Another issue carrying over from last year is bars, taverns, and bowling allies want to participate in sports betting. Sen. Niraj Antani and Sen. Nathan Manning said they would like to see sports betting at more locations throughout the state.

Limardo said he’s willing to have that conversation but thinks it would be a challenge to regulate different tiers of sports wagering operators. Schippers suggested bars don’t have the infrastructure to prevent money laundering and detect problem gamblers put in place at casinos. However, he said there’s a role these facilities could play as affiliates:

“For those bars and taverns and others who want to enter into marketing relationships with us, that’s fantastic. In fact, we have affiliate codes whereby if they can get customers of theirs to sign up for our mobile app, we’ll give them a code to get credit for those customers that they sent our way. And they can have a Barstool Sportsbook night where everybody there on their phones can be betting on our app, putting in their customer codes to be able to get those affiliate benefits.”

Multiple skins gets member support

Last year, the Ohio sports betting bill started with three skins, went down to two, and bottomed out at one.

Former Sen. John Eklund, then Senate sponsor, favored the one skin to not have a proliferation of sports betting apps.

He also thought that the bill would be more acceptable to Senate colleagues with a single skin, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Schippers and Limardo stated that they thought three skins is optimal.

“I think competition is important because it creates innovation amongst us,” Limardo said. “It’s part of helping draw people out of the illegal market, and also helps us continue to innovate and move our offerings forward for patrons.”

Antani and Sen. Cecil Thomas agreed. No committee members spoke against having multiple skins.

“I agree that two to three skins sounds good and as low as a tax rate as possible sounds good,” Antani said. “This should be for Ohioans, not for the government to make money.”

Other recommendations from Ohio industry representatives

Schippers and Limardo brought up additional items they would like the committee to include in a sports betting bill:

  • Allow betting on college sports that are available from offshore sites and in neighboring states.
  • Set the tax rate at 8% to leave room for operators to spend money on marketing to bring consumers into the legal market.
  • Don’t legislatively mandate the use of official league data.
  • Keep the minimum age requirement at 21.
  • Allow regulators to determine what prop bets and types of bets are allowed.
Photo by Denis Zhengal | Dreamstime.com
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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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