The bill, which passed out of the committee with no debate, would allow for casinos, horse racetracks, VFWs, and other fraternal organizations to apply for licenses. The tax rate would be set at 10% of gross gaming revenue and the Ohio Lottery would be the regulator. The bill does not include any kind of fee to the professional leagues or require the use of official league data.
The bill does not explicitly call for mobile sports betting, but it also does not prohibit it.
— Shawn Fluharty (@WVUFLU) May 27, 2020
Amendments don’t change intent
The amendments to the bill didn’t change the nature of it. The amendments:
- Increase the number of locations for keno and SSTs by 2,500. Sports betting will not be permitted on these terminals;
- Clarify language to say that the Lottery may supply sports betting equipment to VFWs or fraternal organizations via an approved vendor; and
- A technical amendment
Ohio lawmakers have been batting around sports betting for several years, and this could be the year it moves. The legislature took a few weeks off at the start of the coronavirus pandemic but is now in session until Dec. 31.
Bill sponsor Rep. Dave Greenspan noted in his comments that there may not be a better time to add a new revenue stream to state coffers and to give some small businesses another opportunity to make money in a stifled economy.
Ohio’s four casinos and seven racetracks closed in mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping across the U.S. According to a local news report, horse racing with no fans resumed on May 22, but the state currently has no plan for when casinos will reopen.
HB 194 was introduced more than a year ago, along with SB 111, which would set a tax rate and allow for the regulation of sports betting. That bill was sent to the Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee in October.
Picking regulator a key point
A key difference between the bills is the regulator: HB 194 names the Lottery, while SB 111 names the state’s Casino Control Commission. The decision on the regulator may well be the biggest sticking point in negotiations going forward.
“I think there’s a strong disagreement between the two chambers and I also think the governor isn’t in favor of it,” Senate President Larry Obhof told the Gongwer Ohio News Service. “We have a commission that is specifically designed to regulate that and that’s probably where I should be regulated.”
Prior to the vote, there were comments by one opponent — David Corey, Executive Vice President of the Bowling Centers Association of Ohio who asked that sports betting kiosks be allowed alleys across the state — and by Richard Pijper, a private citizen who favors sports betting.
Pijper: "You can tax it, I don't care if you tax it. But just give me the choice on whether or not I do it."
Pijper advocates this instead of gas taxes, other tax increase on Ohioans. He says because of the pandemic, he knows Ohio needs the money.
— Geoff Redick (@geoffredick) May 27, 2020
Pijper told the story of how COVID-19 had kept him from officiating at youth baseball and softball games for three weeks before he got a job at WalMart to stave off boredom. He noted that he has already downloaded sports betting apps from neighboring Indiana, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, but he can’t use them unless he crosses the border.
Ohio is surrounded by states with legal sports betting. In addition to the states Pijper noted, Michigan retail sportsbooks went live in early March and mobile platforms are expected next year. Kentucky is Ohio’s only neighbor that has not yet legalized.
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