Ohio State Senator: We’ve Made Progress on Sports Betting Bill

Ohio State Senator: We’ve Made Progress on Sports Betting Bill
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With less than a month left in 2020, sports betting legislation is slowly progressing through Ohio’s 133rd General Assembly. The pace could pick up as two senators indicated a substitute bill is ready to move forward.

During a Senate General Government Agency Review Committee meeting, Chairman Kirk Schuring asked two proponents for unscheduled, unannounced updates on the progress because many colleagues and constituents in Ohio were interested.

Sen. John Eklund (R-District 18-Chardon) gave a rundown of the new details of the amended language in the legislation and ended his remarks saying that they are excited about the prospects and are ready to go ahead with the legislation.

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“What we have at this point is something that we are poised at the call to offer as a substitute to SB 111, the content of which has been informed by many conversations with proponents of the idea of sports gaming, primarily from the industry, opponents, professional sports leagues, Ohio universities and, perhaps most importantly, with the regulators of gaming activities here in the state of Ohio,” Eklund said during the committee meeting Tuesday. “I will report to you that not one of them, in the document we have ready now, got everything that they wanted.”

The amended legislation included:

  • 11 licensed casinos and racinos will be permitted on-site and online for sports betting.
  • The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) will be the regulator.
  • Brick-and-mortar gaming licenses will be limited to a single online skin (down from three since September).
  • Licenses will cost $400,000 every three years ($200,000 for application fee, $200,000 for license fee — this amount doubled since the last draft of the legislation).
  • An 8% tax on sports gaming receipts; 2% of tax revenue will go to problem sports gambling and 98% to education (revenues divided among all school districts in state based on number of students in each district then distributed annually). The education part of the legislation points out that school districts will spend the funds on theatre, arts, music, speech and debate, athletics and other extracurricular activities.

“We’ve chosen to limit it to one skin, so you don’t have a proliferation,” Eklund said. “I will tell you on that score we have it on authority from people I trust that multiple brands can be a problem down the line, so we’re proposing that we stick to one online brand per location with the idea that if it becomes important and beneficial for the people of the state of Ohio to add more brands, that can be done with the switch of a statute down the road.

“It’s a lot easier to do than undo an untoward and inappropriate flood of online sports gaming.”

On Nov. 18, during the Ohio Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee, sports betting legislation received support from the sports betting industry.

Next Steps in Ohio

The next meeting of the Ohio Senate General Government Agency Review Committee could be next week, although no agenda/scheduling announcements have been outlined as of yet.

“We’re ready to go,” said Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-District 32-Baretta) in his remarks for the committee. “We have a great substitute bill. I think it’s good for Ohio to move forward and urge the committee to adopt the substitute bill as soon as possible.”

Neighboring Indiana and Pennsylvania set state records for October sports betting handle. Legalizing sports betting in Ohio is more important now that Michigan is likely to have online sports betting and iGaming operational by the end of the year.

On Election Day, two of the three key Ohio sports betting sponsors were not re-elected as Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-District 16) and O’Brien lost their races. Eklund has served since 2011 and is term-limited from continuing in the Senate after his term ends this month.

So the Ohio legislature must pass its current sports betting bill proposals, which also includes HB 194, in the current lame-duck session or it must go back to the drawing board with a brand-new bill and new sponsors when the new legislature takes over in 2021.