Not So Fast: Eklund Pumps Brakes On Ohio Sports Betting Excitement

Posted on September 18, 2020

There’s been some excitement about finally legalizing  Ohio sports betting, with reports surfacing of a compromise between the House and Senate.

Sen. John Eklund, one of the bill sponsors, suggested taking it one step at a time.

“I want to avoid giving anybody the impression that discussions that four members have had about an issue as complicated as sports gaming somehow, while wildly important I suppose in a certain sense, is by no means the final word on anything,” Eklund told LSR.

Eklund went on to say a lot of the details in the draft bill – including tax rate, skins, license fees and official league data – are still undetermined.

And while it might be a lame-duck session, there’s no guarantee sports betting in Ohio is legalized this year, he added. Others, though, seem certain Ohio will pass a bill.

Ohio sports betting bill details are ‘placeholders’

Until Eklund hears more from everyone involved in the process, he considers the majority of the substitute draft for HB 194 still up for debate.

“They’re all subject to conversation with other senators, state reps and other interested parties,” Eklund said. “I commit to all of them that their input will be sought and considered, and I think that’s important for all parties that are interested in this to know. … To one degree or another, all of those things are placeholders.”

Those details include:

  • Three skins each for the 11 license holders for a 33-brand market
  • 8% tax rate
  • $100,000 fee for a five-year license for casinos and racinos
  • $10,000 for management service providers with $1,000 annual renewal
  • No official league data mandate

One of the only guaranteed items in this sports betting bill is the regulator. The House, especially former Speaker Larry Householder, who lost the title after he was indicted on bribery charges, wanted the Ohio Lottery in charge of regulation. Eklund, meanwhile, thought regulation should belong to the casino regulators.

“I would say at this point the House sponsors have acceded to the Casino Commission,” Eklund said.

No major changes expected

Dan Dodd, the VP of Government Relations at ZHF Consulting, thinks Ohio sports betting will be legalized this year. He doesn’t anticipate many significant changes either.

“I think by and large, the highlights or big-ticket items, I wouldn’t expect those to change drastically unless somebody who has not said so yet has a significant problem,” Dodd said. “… Historically, if you look at how our general assembly has done business there’s a significant amount of work done in the lame-duck session. So I would expect it to pass by the end of the year.”

Eklund’s hesitation to commit to details could just be out of respect, Dodd added.

“There’s a lot of judgment deference given to committee chair as well as to the senate president,” he said. “So if they have not necessarily signed off on it, I think I would hesitate to say it’s a done deal.”

Ohio casinos required to use all skins?

One detail of the draft substitute bill could cause some issues for casino operators.

The draft specifically mentions twice that casinos must use all three of their skins. That could create some headaches for an operator like Penn National. Penn owns four of Ohio’s 11 casinos, meaning it needs to have 12 sports betting skins.

Luckily for Penn National, at least five of those partnerships have been formed. Along with its Barstool Sportsbook brand, Penn gave market access to DraftKings Sportsbook, FOX Bet, PointsBet and theScore Bet.

Other casinos, meanwhile, could be turned off by being forced to sign partnerships instead of simply operating one skin itself.

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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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