Ohio’s grocery store owners are not happy. Neither are the bowling alley owners. And lottery operators aren’t exactly humming a happy tune either.
Spokespeople for all three organizations spoke in front of the Ohio Select Committee on Gaming Wednesday afternoon, complaining that the sports betting bill (SB 176), as crafted, is a rotten egg. Or a 7-10 split. Or a misread scratch-off (lottery metaphors are objectively difficult to conjure up).
David Corey, the executive vice president of the Ohio Bowling Centers Association, was borderline livid when describing what he sees as the “unworkable” portion of the bill that deals with the Ohio Lottery and the betting “pools” the bill proposes.
Under the legislation, bettors would be able to pick winners — either singly or as part as larger groupings — for $20. All the money would be put in the pool, with the lottery taking five bucks out of each wager. Whoever wins splits the pot.
Lottery pool a ‘scam?’
Corey pointed out a major issue with the plan.
“Let’s just do an example of how this pool is not workable,” he began. “Let’s say the Browns are playing the Steelers, and the Browns are favored by 20 points, because they (the Steelers) don’t have Roethlisberger, maybe the coach is sick, the running back is injured, etc. Since the pool idea is just betting on the winner with no odds or point spread involved, almost everyone will bet the favorite in that situation. So you’ve got 10,000 people that bet the $20, 8,000 people bet on the Browns and 2,000 on the Steelers. And remember you took five dollars that goes right to the lottery off the top … so you have $150,000 in the pool for the winnings.
“So if the Browns win, those 8,000 bettors who bet on the Browns would only get a payout on their $20 bet of $18.75. After the first week of this no one is going to use this. They’re going to figure out it’s basically a scam. Now if the Steelers win, those bettors would get a $75 payout. It’s novel, it sounds good, but it’s the most unusable and unworkable thing I’ve ever seen.”
“It seems, and I know I’m not going to make any friends when I say this, but it seems like a smokescreen by the casinos to make it look like we’re actually getting something, but in reality we’re not getting anything. It’s horrible.”
Corey wants the legislature to allow normal sports betting options at lottery kiosks, a point that was also made — albeit not as colorfully — by Intralot, which is Ohio’s lottery operator, and by the Ohio Grocers Association.
“We thank you for including the lottery product in the sports betting offering in the state, but we do request that the legislature not hamstring the design of this product,” said Kristi Mullins, the president of the grocers’ group. “Please allow the lottery and its retail partners to implement new games under the strict protocols to which they already adhere.”
Sports teams also not thrilled
Under the proposed law, there would be 40 (non-lottery) sports betting licenses issued. Twenty of them would be “Type A,” which are mobile-only, and 20 would be “Type B,” which are brick-and-mortar only. Type B permit holders would be allowed to apply for Type A licenses, and there is no limit to the number of mobile partners a Type A license holder can have.
Ohio’s pro sports teams among others could apply for the type of licenses that allow in-game betting, said Schuring, a Canton Republican.
— PGNOhio (@PGNOhio) May 9, 2021
Ohio’s professional sports teams are not on board.
Jeff Healy of the Cincinnati Reds, summing up the issue on behalf of the state’s pro sports teams, objected that the way the law is written, sports teams are going to be left out in the cold.
“We believe there are opportunities to improve upon the current legislation,” Healy began, before explaining that eligible license holders need to be described more clearly.
In the end, he asked the committee to “provide a pathway” for the professional sports entities and the casinos and racinos of Ohio to control a license with a sportsbook partner.
Additionally, he asked for a limit on the number of mobile skins per license.
“The 20 Type A licenses should be limited to one skin, or brand, so there are only 20 online mobile skins operating in Ohio,” he said. “Twenty skins are more than enough.”
Healy also asked for “priority” when it comes to Type B licenses, saying sports teams, casinos, and racinos should be sent to the front of the line.
Under the language of the bill, there is “no pathway for Ohio’s professional sports business,” added Ted Tywang of the Haslam Group, which owns the Browns. “In fact, the current sub-bill dramatically favors largely national gaming interests, including through the requirements that the licensees themselves ‘bank the bets,’ and that each license in the Type A group for mobile and online would have an unlimited number of deployable mobile licenses. These provisions would flat-out prevent our participation based on our business structure and league rules, and also create an unhealthy monopoly.”
Some minor levity
Despite the turn toward most stakeholders being aggravated by the bill, the hearings started off on a humorous note, with former Michigan state Rep. Brandt Iden spreading the gospel of sports betting, from sea to shining sea.
Well, at least from one side of Lake Erie to the other, as Iden, on behalf of Sportradar, spoke in front of the committee, asking that the bill’s language be updated to include “clear and concise definitions of sport betting licenses.”
Notably, Iden crafted Michigan’s sports betting legislation, and he couldn’t let the moment pass without a bon mot, saying that while he’s happy Ohio is on its way to legalizing sports betting, he’ll be “a little disappointed because I certainly have enjoyed taking all that Ohio money up in Michigan.”
Others who were not completely ticked off at Wednesday’s hearings included DraftKings, which sent its legal representative, Kevin Cochoran, to ask for minor procedural changes in the bill. Additionally, the founder of Sporttrade, Alexander Kane, showed up to thank the committee for allowing sports betting exchanges like Sporttrade access to the market, though it was unclear if the committee knew they had actually done such a thing.
Another upset faction
Lastly, C. Todd Jones, speaking for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio, asked the committee to include language in the bill that would explicitly prevent would-be bettors from wagering on small-college sports, including club-level small-college sports.
Yes, club level.
He said the bill, which defines college sports as a “sport or athletic event offered or sponsored by or played in connection with a public or private institution that offers educational services beyond the secondary level,” theoretically allows betting on club sports.
Under the bill, all decisions concerning college sports betting would be punted to the Ohio Casino Control Commission, and Jones is asking the legislature to rewrite the bill to prevent a sportsbook from potentially being able to offer a market, for example, on dorm-level volleyball matches at Division III colleges.
“We think this is a distinction worth noting,” Jones said.
Hearings on the bill will continue next Wednesday at 4 p.m.
— Bubba (@TheBubbaD) May 18, 2021