Will Ohio Legalize Sports Betting In 2020? Revised Bill Starts Path With Hearing Next Week

Posted on November 13, 2020 - Last Updated on November 17, 2020

Ohio sports betting sponsors are still tinkering with their bill ahead of a committee hearing Wednesday.

Sports betting will get its first reception in the Senate Government and Agency Review Committee. The hearing begins an effort to pass the legislation in the lame-duck session before year end.

But sponsors Sen. John Eklund and Rep. Dave Greenspan have worked overtime for months to get the bill prepared for passage.

The hearing is for Eklund’s S 111. Greenspan’s H 194 passed the House in May. Last month, the sponsors released language for a substitute that addresses many of the discrepancies between the House and Senate bills.

Two weeks ago, the authors put out an updated draft. But that won’t be the final say for sports betting in Ohio.

Rep. Greenspan tells PlayOhio that the lawmakers are working on one final draft, and it might not be ready to introduce at this hearing.

Changes in last Ohio sports betting draft

Here are some of the changes made in the previous draft of the Ohio sports betting substitute:

  • A sports gaming agent may contract with no more than two management services providers to offer sports gaming (down from three).
  • Casinos and racinos may fill both skins but no longer are required to do so.
  • Operators may not subtract the 0.25% federal excise tax paid on all wagers from their total gross receipts.
  • Allows promotional gaming credits to be deducted from revenues prior to paying taxes.
  • Makes anonymized data available to sports governing bodies in commercially reasonable time rather than real time.
  • Adds that the commission’s prohibition for granting a sports betting license to an applicant directly involved or employed by any offshore wagering market that illegally serviced the US only applies to those that did so on or after April 16, 2015.

New draft likely to clarify skins language

Eklund said the sponsors intend to clarify confusing language around skins.

The last draft says a casino or racino may use a maximum of two brands, either its own brand and that of an online sports betting company or two online sports betting companies. However, it does not clarify if the retail sportsbook counts as one brand, or if it applies only to online sports pools.

Eklund also said that he was not convinced that Ohio casinos needed two skins. He argued for one skin, but compromised at two with Greenspan.

“I have not settled on two skins per location for online betting as the right thing to do,” Eklund said. “I don’t think it does any good for the state or buying public to have all these minor players fitting around. By having more skins available than needed, you wind up with the phenomenon of squatting. When that happens, I think they not only control the market today but in the future by having exclusive rights to do sports gaming online.”

Eklund also is considering what is the best number to get the bill passed.

“There’s I suspect going to be continued discussion about it. Whether it amounts to a movement to go to only one skin, we’ll see. I think that there are legislators and executives in Ohio who are probably less than fully enamored with the idea of sports gambling and sports gambling online. I’m trying to keep my eye on the audience here and what is most likely to find favor with the rest of the legislature, our governor, and the interest groups out there that are generally anti-gaming.”

Election adds urgency for Ohio sports betting effort

It appears Greenspan lost his reelection bid to Democratic challenger Monique Smith in an extremely tight contest.

The unofficial count has Greenspan losing by a mere 1,180 votes, a margin of 50.8% to 49.2%. The vote was so close that the candidates are awaiting certified results. Those are expected from the Cuyahoga County Board of Election on Nov. 18.

Sen. Sean O’Brien, a minority-party sponsor of the bill, also lost.

Eklund and Sen. Bill Coley also are terming out.

All of this adds urgency for Ohio to get sports betting to the finish line this year. Otherwise, the bill will have to start over next year with new sponsors.

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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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