Senator: Ohio Sports Betting Change Targets ‘People Who Could Scuttle The Whole Operation’

Posted on December 7, 2020 - Last Updated on December 8, 2020

New details of the Ohio Senate’s sports betting proposal create some ambiguity about the potential for legalization this year.

The biggest change included Sens. John Eklund and Sean O’Brien trimming the skins (or brands) allowed per casino license to just one. As Eklund tells LSR, that change might be what saves the chances for legalized Ohio sports betting:

“I’m hearing from people ­– the approval from whom is pretty important to getting anything done – that the broad, widespread proliferation of this stuff is disfavored and the sort of wade-in, test-the-waters, let’s-see-how-it-goes approach is more appropriate.

“I’m trying to get a bill passed, you see what I mean? And I’m trying to not do anything that would turn people who could scuttle the whole operation against us.”

The first official steps of the SB 111 substitute will come at Tuesday’s Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee meeting.

‘Little time’ to negotiate sports betting in Ohio

The Ohio legislature runs through the end of the year, but could really wrap up as early as this week. That means there’s not much time to waste on negotiations with a new bill that needs to pass both chambers.

“Well, there is little time, honestly, right?” Eklund said when asked if any details were open to negotiation. “And I think my sense of the [interested parties in the House] is that everyone wants to get something responsible done.

“And that may mean that everybody’s equally miserable.”

Miserable, maybe, but at least with sports betting legalized and tax dollars staying in Ohio rather than flowing into bordering states with legal sports betting:

Eklund said he believes both HB 194 sponsors, Reps. Dave Greenspan and Brigid Kelly, support the changes.

“My sense is yes, they are foursquare in favor of legalizing and regulating sports gaming in Ohio and I think, for the most part – well, they might not agree with every jot and tittle but that’s the nature of the beast,” Eklund said.

Multiple changes from last draft

Last week, Eklund rattled off many of the changes that will be in substitute SB 111. Most sound substantially different from what was discussed and proposed in a draft substitute of HB 194 in September:

  • One skin for the 11 license holders compared to three skins. The three proposed skins was eventually lowered to two skins in a later HB 194 draft.
  • Casinos and racinos would pay a $100,000 application fee and $100,000 for a three-year license compared to a $100,000 application fee and $100,000 for a five-year license for casinos and racinos. The entire $200,000 is due at renewal in the substitute SB 111 instead of just $100,000.
  • Sportsbook operators would pay a $50,000 application fee and $500,000 license fee compared to a $10,000 for management service providers with $1,000 annual renewal

Key elements that remain unchanged include the 8% tax on sports betting revenue, the Casino Control Commission serving as regulator and no official league data mandate.

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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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