The Senate proposal to legalize sports betting in Ohio only dropped Thursday but there are already changes in the works.
The legislation, detailed at a press conference by Sen. Kirk Schuring, takes a much different approach than was seen in Ohio last year. It proposes 40 total licenses, 20 for mobile and 20 for retail sportsbooks, all of which are available through an open bid.
The Ohio Lottery can also offer sports pools with a fixed $20 buy-in.
The bill language also contained some unintended consequences and missed a few other details, Schuring told LSR. Those will be clarified to fit the actual intention of the proposal.
Those changes could be officially made with a substitute introduced at Wednesday‘s Select Committee on Gaming hearing. That will also be the first opportunity for stakeholders to testify on the OH sports betting legislation.
Changes coming to Ohio sports betting bill
During the press conference, Schuring mentioned professional sports teams might not want to go for a Type A mobile license since they would have to “bank the bet,” or accept the risk. Type B licenses, meanwhile, can outsource the bookmaking to sportsbook operator.
That is not directly reflected in the legislation but it will be, Schuring said:
“I’ve been around for a long time and I think I said the first iteration of the bill upon the scrutinization of many, many different eyes, we’re amenable to make it as clear as I described it, OK?
“So if someone says the way you described, it we don’t read it that way, well I’ll take a look at it and we’ll make sure it reads the way I described it. But what you heard me say is the way it’s designed and the way it’s intended.”
While Type A – the license Schuring assumes the state’s 11 casinos and racinos will want – only allows for mobile licenses, it was not intended to keep those licensees from offering a sportsbook on-site. So the bill will also be updated to allow Type A licensees to offer a retail sportsbook as well.
The Type B licenses, which Schuring is most excited about since they are seen as an economic driver, do not have any guidelines on what a sportsbook must include or a minimum investment. The Ohio Casino Control Commission will help flesh out those guidelines, he said.
Licenses will be determined by best, not first, bid
The bill stated both mobile and retail licenses would be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. That is not true, Schuring said.
“Absolutely not, it’s where you get the best economic impact,” he added.
That ties into the free-market approach he wanted that will give everyone an equal opportunity at a license. That might not be what everyone wanted, included the casinos and the professional teams and leagues in Ohio that wanted a license made available directly to them. Schuring said he had no intention of “spoon-feeding” anyone a license.
In an effort to stay as neutral as possible through the process, Schuring also refused private meetings until companies publicly testified about what they wanted in the legislation:
“When we started the hearings I said, I will meet with anybody individually but not before they give public testimony. I want people to tell us what they’re thinking publicly.
“We’ll be fair and honest and digest it, and then if behind the scenes I and others have to work out – the Senate President, the two joint sponsors – we’ll all give them their just due. But it ain’t gonna be in some backroom some place. I want to hear what they’re saying publicly.”
Ohio House still crafting its sports betting proposal
The Senate kept its proposal under wraps until the Thursday press conference. That meant those in the House also working on an Ohio sports betting proposal did not learn details until everyone else did.
Rep. Brigid Kelly told LSR the bill takes an interesting approach but noted she had not had time to fully digest it yet. Kelly is involved in the House’s process this year and is the only person remaining from last year’s sports betting sponsors in either chamber. Their legislation is still under construction.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Kelly said. “There was a lot of work that had been done. I think [last year’s bill] laid a good foundation but certainly, when you get new people involved in the mix, you know, it’s different perspectives, new conversations. So we’re still working on it.”