Ohio Sports Betting Bill Inches Forward In 10-Minute Hearing

Posted on November 19, 2020

The wait for a delayed Ohio Senate committee to begin was significantly longer than the actual discussion on sports betting.

The General Government and Agency Review Committee heard less than 10 minutes of discussion on SB 111. That’s mostly because the bill is outdated at this point. Sponsors John Eklund and Sean O’Brien have worked on updated legislation with sponsors of HB 194.

“All I can say at this time is more to follow,” Eklund said. “We welcome the opportunity to have another hearing at this point, Chairman, because there are some folks, I think, some of whom have been participants in this exercise we’ve been on for the last, boy, going on 14 months, who have some very, very significant and useful things for the committee to hear.”

What’s next in Ohio?

Legislators have until the end of the year to legalize sports betting in Ohio. If it doesn’t, the issue will have need new sponsors next year. O’Brien and Rep. Dave Greenspan lost re-election races while Eklund is finishing his final term.

If it doesn’t pass, Ohio bettors likely will continue to take their business to its four border states with legal betting:

Ohio sports betting negotiations still ongoing

Eklund mentioned he and O’Brien could answer questions as long as they didn’t “disrupt the delicate process in which we are engaged.”

If there was anything positive to come out of the hearing, it was probably O’Brien’s bullishness on the chances of legalizing sports betting in Ohio.

“We have been working assiduously, as my joint sponsor has said,” O’Brien said. “[We’re] working across the spectrum and across the board to make sure this, most importantly, that this is not a forbidden fruit. We will bring it soon to fruition.”

Testimony largely supports draft

Much of the submitted testimony for SB 111 supports the draft work that Eklund and O’Brien have done with HB 194.

Multiple hopeful Ohio sports betting operators as well as industry lobbyist group iDEA Growth submitted support:

  • Boyd Gaming
  • DraftKings Sportsbook
  • FanDuel Sportsbook
  • Jack Entertainment
  • MGM Resorts
  • Penn National

Comments included praise for the tax rate, inclusion of mobile betting and asking for esports betting. Most of the commentary on the latest HB 194 draft was positive:

“The most recent version by the sponsors reflects feedback from all sides and is in line with many of the other successful sports betting regimes already implemented across the country, including the states surrounding Ohio,” said Rick Limardo of MGM.

Not all thrilled with changes, though

iDEA Growth expressed disappointment over the decrease in proposed online skins to two per casino and racino, down from three:

“A previous draft of the legislation allowed for three skins and mandated that sports gaming agents enter into contracts so that Ohio taxpayers can realize the full value of a highly competitive market. iDEA Growth supported this draft language and would urge lawmakers to authorize a minimum of three (3) online skins per property. Based on our internal research, and a review of other markets, we believe that Ohio could easily support thirty (30) or more online sports betting brands.”

The change would limit the market to 22 operators instead of 33.

Other important factors, such as the 8% tax rate and absence of official league data mandate, remained the same.

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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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