Ohio Sports Betting Bill Gets Creative But Is That A Good Thing?

Written By Matthew Waters on May 6, 2021
Ohio sports betting

No one will get a free ticket into the Ohio sports betting market if Senate sponsors get their way.

Sen. Kirk Schuring laid out some details of his OH sports betting legislation Thursday morning in a press conference. While he thinks he and his Select Committee on Gaming crafted a good bill, he expects some requested changes from interested parties.

Those could come as soon as Wednesday when the committee will hold its first hearing on the proposal.

The hope is to get OH sports betting legalized by the end of June, Schuring said:

“We think we’ve got a very good basis to finally get this done. We’re anxious not just to work with the committee but our colleagues in the House and the Governor’s office to get it done before the end of June.”

No Ohio sports betting this year?

Don’t get too excited about a full season of NFL betting in Ohio this year, though.

The bill says sports betting in Ohio cannot start until Jan. 1, 2022.

That means plenty of Ohioans will still be traveling to border states like Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to bet for the rest of the year, just like they did for March Madness.

Proposed Ohio sports betting details

Here is what is proposed for sports betting in Ohio:

  • There will be 40 licenses available, though Schuring admitted that number is “malleable.”
    • There will be 20 class A licenses for mobile operations that want to “bank the bets,” Schuring said.
    • The other 20 class B licenses are for retail sportsbooks that will focus on the “new phenomenon called proposition betting,” Schuring added.
  • A retail sportsbook cannot be located at a casino or racino, but either could still apply for a Class B license if the retail sportsbook is opened offsite. Both can also offer sports betting through the Lottery.
  • Sports betting revenue will be taxed at 10%, and will benefit public and private education as well as gambling addiction.
  • Each license will cost $1 million for three years.
  • The Casino Control Commission will regulate sportsbooks and will decide important issues including what collegiate betting looks like.

Lotto gets a different look

The Ohio Lottery Commission will have a sports betting product of its own. It would be in the form of a sports pool where each participant pays a fixed $20 price.

The bill analysis gives the example of 1,000 bettors buying a $20 ticket on a BrownsSteelers game. The Lottery would keep 10%, or $2,000, with the remaining $18,000 to be split by the winning ticket holder. This is likely an effort to keep local lottery retailers happy.

Schuring did not explain the exact vehicle for the legislation but it will not be in the budget. It does not sound like it will be a standalone effort, either:

“I betcha we can find a warm and fuzzy bill, one that you want to hug and take to bed every night and kiss and everybody will like, right? And I say we put it in that bill.”

Licenses are first-come, first-served

Be prepared to hear some unkind testimony from the 11 casinos and nine professional sports teams/leagues in the state. Both sides called for licenses to offer their own sportsbook operations.

“What we’ve done and the way we’ve drafted this is everybody has an opportunity based on free-market principles,” Schuring said. “But we’re not going to hand anybody in the revised code something on a silver platter.

“They have to compete, they have to show whatever they’re doing is meritorious and then they have to be approved by the regulatory agency.”

Whither pro teams?

The teams get an even shorter side of the stick because they would have to take on the bet liability if they wanted a mobile Class A license.

“If they wanted to, they could also apply for a type A license, but they’d have to bank the bet and I’m not sure they’d want to bank the bet,” Schuring said. “But that’s up to them.”

The Class B licenses for retail sportsbooks will not just be given out to anyone either. Schuring sees this as an economic development opportunity and criteria in the application will include how that development benefits Ohio.

A bit different than nearly there 2020 proposal

Schuring said he looked at past sports betting bills introduced in Ohio, including last year’s SB 111 and HB 194.

The sponsors of both worked together but eventually the bill ran out of time after changes were proposed too late in the session.

There are a couple of key differences between Schuring’s proposal and the final proposal last year:

  • Higher tax rate at 10% instead of 8%.
  • An open licensing model with separate online and retail licenses instead of one online license per casino and racino in the state. They could also operate traditional retail sportsbooks at their properties.
  • Higher licensee fee at $1 million for three years instead of $100,000 for five years.

Schuring was not involved in the process last year. In fact, three of the four sponsors of those two bills are out of office. Rep. Dave Greenspan and Sen. Sean O’Brien lost their races while Sen. John Eklund termed out.

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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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