The latest attempt at legalizing sports betting in Ohio has been presented. While there are still several details that need to be worked on and confirmed, lawmakers hope that the bill can gain its approvals before the start of July. Kirk Schuring, Senate Majority Floor Leader in Ohio said that he thinks that the time has come for the state and its legislators to take action.
Senate Bill 176 is set to make the rounds in legislative chambers after the Select Committee on Gaming completed two months ending in March that consisted of testimony from industry stakeholders. To solidify the legislation and improve on the outline of the bill, Schuring met with committee members to discuss the details of the proposed bill. Before putting together the bill, Schuring made sure to gather as much information as possible which led to him having a list of over 200 points that needed to be covered in the bill. The legislation has not been officially introduced to the committee as yet but will be very soon.
According to what is contained in the latest proposed legislation, the Ohio sports betting market will be a robust and competitive one. While there is still time for amendments to be made, the bill proposes a total of 40 sports betting licenses in the state. These will be split up into Type A and Type B licenses. Type A licenses will be issued to online sports betting operators while Type B licenses will be granted to physical locations such as the state’s casinos. While the number of licenses accounts for the professional sports teams that have been working toward getting a piece of the action and the state’s 11 racinos and casinos, other businesses will also be allowed to apply for a sports wagering license in Ohio.
The Type A licenses will likely be taken up by the casinos in the state, especially since some of these locations have already proactively secured online skin partners in the hope that sports betting comes to Ohio sooner rather than later. Schuring said that any business that is willing and able to afford the financial responsibilities that come with taking bets in the state, that those businesses are free to apply as well. He is looking to make Ohio a free market sports betting state that is diverse and inclusive. There are industry stakeholders that were hoping to see more sports betting licenses available in the state, but Schuring reassured them that there is still time to make changes concerning what is needed.
As for the Type B licenses, it does come with language attached that suggests that it would not be the best fit for one of the established racinos or casinos in the state. According to the analysis of the bill, if a casino were to receive a Type B license, then a separate facility will need to be established to house the sportsbook. So, casinos will not be allowed to house the sportsbook inside their buildings. Schuring added that these licenses will likely be taken up by professional sports teams and could be a great way of creating job opportunities in the state. Regardless of the license classification, a sports betting license in the state will cost an operator 1 million USD and will be valid for three years. Taxes will be based on the net revenue generated by sportsbooks and will be set at 10%.
Unlike other sports betting markets, Ohio’s will be significantly more inclusive of smaller businesses, such as grocery stores and bowling alleys. These associations have previously expressed their need to be included in the sports betting market. These establishments will be licensed to offer a pari-mutuel betting product. Bettors would be able to purchase a ticket and bet on an outcome of a sports event. Proceeds from each ticket purchased would go toward the state lottery and the bettors who win will split the pool evenly.
Furthermore, previous discussions around sports betting have not been the most successful. The House and the Senate had issues with coming to agreeable terms. In 2020, the House approved a bill with overwhelming support. However, it never garnered enough clout in the Senate because of a Senate bill that contained different outlines and language to support it. The main differences were found when each chamber wanted sports betting to be overseen by different commissions. The Senate wanted the Casino Control Commission and the House wanted to give the Ohio Lottery Commission authority over sports betting. However, with the latest efforts, there does seem to be some more common ground between the House and the Senate going forward.
Many industry stakeholders are questioning whether or not the state will be able to bring sports betting to fruition by June. Dan Dodd, a former lawmaker in Ohio commented on how the legislature could achieve its goal. He said that even though the Senate would probably hold hearings to discuss the bill, it wouldn’t make it to the Senate floor. To get it done faster, the Senate would not send its bill for House approval. The bill originating in the Senate could be added to the House bill as an amendment. It will then be sent back to the House for final approval and if all goes well the legislation will be sent to Governor Mike Dewine’s desk for final approval.
To avoid having to discuss disagreements of the legislation in a conference committee, the chambers will likely discuss the amendments before any add ons. If not, the approval process will need to be followed in the usual way and a conference committee will need to be set up to hash out the details and differences to find a reasonable and fair outcome, after the fact, which could take longer and the state would not meet its target.