Third Ohio Sports Betting Bill Hearing Brings More Suggested Changes

Written By Pat Evans on May 27, 2021
Ohio sports betting

Ohio sports betting might have its first bettor set following the most recent hearing for SB 176.

The Senate Select Committee on Gaming heard testimonies from six parties Wednesday, all in support of sports betting in Ohio but suggesting minor adjustments. The committee also received two written testimonies, including one opponent.

The committee did not take action on the bill, but the sponsors are still targeting June 30 for passage. SB 176 was introduced on May 12.

First Ohio sports bettor?

Resident Richard Pijper highlighted the legislation’s third hearing by explaining his desire for sports betting in Ohio, and that he and his fiance have considered leaving the state because of the legislature’s inaction.

Pijper said he drives to neighboring states to place legal bets. He believes the state is missing out on millions of dollars in potential revenue.

Pijper asked SB 176 co-sponsor Sen. Niraj Antani why the legislature cannot “get this done in a timely matter?” He also testified during Ohio sports betting hearings last year.

“I will commit to you that if this isn’t done by June 30, you can come to my office and yell at me,” Antani responded. “I will invite you to place the first bet in Ohio.”

Desire to keep Ohio sports betting tethered

Multiple testimonies advocated to tie OH sports betting to existing gaming. It is not the first time casinos have objected to the open-market approach to the proposed Ohio sports betting licensing.

Penn National Gaming SVP of Public Affairs Eric Schippers used Tennessee Action 24/7 situation as a reason to keep licenses attached to regulated gaming organizations.

Just prior to March Madness, the Tennessee Education Lottery suspended Action 24/7’s license after the operator self-reported 23 debit card fraud instances. Action 24/7 won a temporary injunction against TEL for not following proper procedures May 12.

“The company had no incentive to follow the strict rules and regulations that casino operators and their tethered sports betting operating partners must follow,” Schippers said. “If we lose a license in one jurisdiction, or are even penalized by regulators for a misstep, it has consequences in all the other jurisdictions in which we’re license. As public companies, our licenses are our most precious commodities.”

MGM Resorts International VP of Government Affairs Rick Limardo said, “Integrity is the bedrock of our business and sports betting.”

Cleaning up the Ohio sports betting language

Dan Dodd, a spokesperson for industry trade group iDEA Growth, said the bones of SB 176 include many good provisions, including:

  • The 10% tax rate.
  • Places the Casino Control Commission as the regulator.
  • Lottery kiosks with an acknowledged sports lottery product.
  • Establishment of 20 Type A licenses for mobile operators, with the ability to contract with multiple operators for sports betting.

Still, Dodd offered some suggestions to help clarify language.

iDEA Growth suggested changes

Dodd suggested language changes to help define how to prohibit certain bets. He also suggests including language to define supplier licenses, specifically model language provided by Sportradar.

He also encouraged the committee to “affirm that the secure facility only needs to be located within Ohio,” as it pertains to a business having a physical presence in the state to qualify for a Type A license.

Dodd’s last issue was to include iGaming in the legislation. Three neighboring states allow iGaming:

Ohio Lottery component considerations

Ohio Licensed Beverage Association Executive Director Andy Herf asked the committee to focus on three objectives for a lottery sports betting component:

  • Empower the lottery to offer a game attractive to customers
  • Start the lottery game at the same time as the other games
  • Include lottery retailers in the discussion

Herf said he is encouraged by “near-universal support” for Ohio retailers to participate through the lottery. Last week, several groups asked the committee for similar considerations.

He does not believe lottery sports betting in OH will directly result in revenue for retailers. Instead, he wants the component to be attractive to keep patrons at the bars and restaurants.

His main point was to change the game from a pool model to one with lines for even betting. That change, along with higher betting limits, he believes would make the games more attractive to customers.

“The true benefit to the retailers I represent will be keeping customers longer to watch entire events,” Herf said.

Desire for professional sports equity

Tennis in the Land Tournament Director Kyle Ross wrote in opposition to the current legislation’s language on professional sports licenses.

The tournament is part of the Women’s Tennis Association Tour. Ross believes the legislation as written considers only men’s sports organizations.

There are no mandates the licenses go to the men’s professional sports organizations. The committee previously heard from three Ohio teams, as well as the PGA Tour, asking for mandates.

“If language speaking towards Ohio-based professional sports properties is to be included in the legislation, which we wholeheartedly support, to consider only men’s sports organizations seems ill-advised, especially considering the outsized profile of WTA Tour events in the betting market,” Ross wrote.

“Like our colleagues in the Ohio-based professional sports space, we are concerned with market dilution, over-saturation of licenses and the various related challenges; however, the fact that there are 11 casinos and racinos and nine men’s professional sports organizations seems to approach the 20 available licenses in a manner that is perhaps too tidy.”

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Pat Evans

Pat Evans is a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based reporter covering sports business. Evans previously worked at Front Office Sports and the Grand Rapids Business Journal. He has authored two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer.

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