Ohio Casinos Fight Back Against Sports Betting, Gaming Expansion Bill

Posted on May 13, 2021
Ohio sports betting

It did not take long for the majority of casino owners in Ohio to fight back against the Senate’s expanded gaming bill, which includes sports betting.

A press release from Get Gaming Right Ohio warns that SB 176 would allow slot-like electronic bingo games in nearly 900 locations across the state. Those new gambling venues would offer “unprecedented and unchecked gambling access to Ohio residents, including teenagers.”

That might sounds altruistic but the organization is not necessarily watching out for the public. The group includes support from JACK Entertainment, MGM Resorts and Penn National.

JACK, MGM and Penn own seven of the 11 casinos and racinos in Ohio. Naturally, the expanded slot-like machines are not great for their businesses. The group pushed back on HB 65, which calls for electronic bingo expansion as well, earlier this month.

The three operators are also likely frustrated they were not handed OH sports betting licenses as expected.

Is pushback based on Ohio sports betting proposal?

There has not been any public comment yet from those three operators on the sports betting part of SB 176. The bill was introduced Wednesday with a few amendments, but there was no public testimony.

That said, they likely cannot be happy about gaming expansion that does not benefit them.

Sen. Kirk Schuring, the bill’s two joint sponsors, and others involved in the process wanted an open-market approach. That means those 40 sports betting licenses are up for open bidding.

The casinos, professional sports teams and leagues throughout Ohio wanted the licenses to be tethered to existing gaming operations. But Schuring said he had no intention of “spoon-feeding” anyone a license.

Would electronic bingo expansion hurt Ohio casinos?

SB 176 would authorize electronic bingo machines at veterans and fraternal organizations throughout the state. Bingo is playable by anyone 18 or older in Ohio, which is where the group gets its concern about “teenagers.”

Electronic bingo machines look and feel like casino-style slots. That might create less incentive for a player to drive to a casino.

Dan Reinhard mentioned the similarities between the machines in his submitted testimony for JACK to the Select Committee on Gaming:

“As you will see, there is nothing on the face of the cabinet or obvious from the screen that there is any difference between these machines. While technology will allow these machines to initially look much simpler, the manufacturers and distributors will undoubtedly seek to advance the machines over time.”

Inside the revenue numbers

Take a look at the numbers to see why stopping the expansion is important to casinos.

Ohio’s four casinos reported $452.6 million in slot revenue for calendar 2020. Its seven racinos recorded $820.9 million in net revenue for fiscal 2020, which ended in June.

Casinos and racinos closed from mid-March to mid-June last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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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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