The big news to come out of this week’s Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming hearing is that there are only two more Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming hearings left and a bill will be forthcoming after the Passover and Easter holidays.
Sen. Kirk Schuring, the chair of the committee, made that announcement before Wednesday afternoon’s hearing began.
“During the religious holidays we have a two week period of break,” Schuring said. “During that period I will be contacting every member of this committee for their input on the bank of evidence that has been presented to us relative to gaming as a whole. And then I’ll be conferring with the Senate president after I have a chance to talk to the committee, and at that point we’ll build a bill, and we’ll introduce a bill when we all come back from the break.”
In the meantime, the hearings continued Wednesday afternoon, and this one featured plenty of testimony from pro teams looking for a piece of the action, colleges wishing to have no part of the action, and the man who built the first Embassy Suites hotel offering to run the whole thing.
Pro teams are all-in
First up, representatives for the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Columbus Crew echoed the sentiments of last week’s testimony by Doug Healy, the CFO of the Cincinnati Reds: That want pro teams to each get at least a mobile skin, and preferably also a brick-and-mortar license.
“We are the ones who actually create the sports betting market,” said Ted Tywang, the general counsel for the Haslem Sports Group, owner of the Browns and the Crew. “In this context, we feel strongly that Ohio’s legalized sports betting legislation must include market access provisions that allow the professional sports teams to participate directly.
“More specifically, we think each professional sports team and the PGA Tour should be allocated one mobile license, or skin, which it can sub-license to a qualified mobile sports betting operator. We also believe that each of the 11 brick-and-mortar permit holders should similarly be allocated one online skin, which would result in a total of 20 online licenses. This optimal market structure would create robust competition and market innovation while avoiding over-saturation of the market and consumer confusion.”
Tywang was joined by Brian Sells, the vice president and chief marketing officer of the Bengals, and Cameron Scholvin, the Blue Jackets COO, in hitting the same talking points: skins for all teams; mandating the use of official league data; making sure there are effective age limits; and working with the operators and law enforcement to keep things on the up and up.
They all also encouraged the legislature to move quickly, a pace that has not defined the body’s movement over the past three sessions. Various lawmakers have introduced bills and some even cleared committee in 2020, but the sticking point has remained over which entity would assume regulatory authority over legal wagering in the state.
“While we certainly don’t want to rush the process, the state of Ohio and its professional teams have fallen behind with regard to legalized sports betting,” Sells said. “Virtually all of our neighboring states have moved forward and have successfully met the demand in their state and tapped into activity that should benefit the citizens and taxpayers of Ohio.”
Colleges would like to stay out
And while the pro teams are in lockstep in wanting legalization to come to Ohio — and to get a piece of the pie — Bruce Johnson, the president of Inter-University Council of Ohio and former lieutenant governor of Ohio, was there to ask that any sports betting legalization leave college athletics out of it.
He went through a host of reasons — the potential for inside information shenanigans, the mental health of the players, the integrity of the games, and the overall risk of college students gambling — before Sen. Niraj Antani questioned Johnson on how other states have fared with allowing wagers on college athletics.
Johnson admitted no studies have been conducted that he was aware of.
Antani then asked Johnson whether if the legislature included college athletics in the final bill, he had any “reasonable” suggestions on how to manage it. Johnson echoed the sentiments of the pro teams, namely making sure integrity issues remained at the forefront.
A one-man band
Finally, the committee heard from Rick Ohanian, an architect and builder, who told the committee he built the first Embassy Suites Hotel in Dallas in 1984 and also said he invented the permanent seat license (PSL) in 1987.
Ohanian was there to wonder why the state would hand over the reins of sports betting to existent casinos and operators when the state lottery could do it itself.
He said the state would make between $60 million and $70 million in taxes and upfront fees by going with casinos and operators, as opposed to $750 million if the lottery ran the whole operation.
“Let’s say you’re a young man or young woman who wants to make a $50 bet on the Browns, you would go to your nearest Kroger or CVS or whoever has the lottery ticket dispensers and buy a $50 ticket,” Ohanian said.
Furthermore, Ohanian offered his services to the state.
“It’s no secret I’d like to run this for you for three reasons,” he continued. “Number one, I invented the system, number two I know more about it than anybody alive, and number three I also have two new products that I invented that would allow the state to make revenue beyond the borders.”
The Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming meets for the penultimate time Wednesday, March 24 at 4 p.m.