Ohio Pro Teams Again Call on Legislators to Give Them Sports Betting Licenses

Posted on: April 20, 2021, 11:25h. 

Last updated on: April 21, 2021, 02:17h.

Ohio’s major professional sports teams have banded together to lobby lawmakers and reiterate their call for a piece of any sports betting bill that comes out of the legislature.

Ohio sports betting
Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds connects on a pitch in Sunday’s home game against the Cleveland Indians. The Reds and Indians are two of the Ohio pro sports teams seeking to get the state legislature to give them access to sports betting licenses. (Image: Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The Ohio Professional Sports Coalition includes the eight professional sports teams that call the Buckeye State home. It also has the PGA Tour’s Memorial Tournament, which is held annually outside of Columbus. That group issued a statement on Tuesday that urged lawmakers to craft a bill that lets the Ohio Casino Control Commission regulate sports betting in the state.

But the teams don’t want the casinos to have exclusive access to the product.

Under the coalition’s plan, each of the sports franchises and the Memorial Tournament would receive a license. So, too, would the four state-licensed casinos, as well as the seven racinos overseen by the Ohio Lottery Commission.

That would mean Ohio could have up to 20 licensed sportsbooks in the state.

The sports teams would then partner with a sportsbook to operate a mobile app and potentially a retail sportsbook. Those would be either at the stadium, arena, golf course, or within a for-now-undetermined distance of the team’s venue.

A retail sportsbook is another opportunity to enhance the fan experience and spur economic development within our communities,” the coalition’s statement read. “It would also provide an alternative wagering venue for our fans who do not wish to visit a casino to place a wager.”

The teams want lawmakers to act quickly. They seek a bill signed into law by June 30.

Other Groups Want Their Say, Too

The teams involved in the coalition include the Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Reds, FC Cincinnati, Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Columbus Crew. Their request comes after the District of Columbia and states like Illinois and Virginia gave sports teams access to licenses in their sports betting laws.

Much of the sports teams’ statement wasn’t new. The teams themselves testified before the state Senate Select Committee on Gaming, which held hearings through last month to get public testimony for key stakeholders and other interested parties.

The committee came about after lawmakers failed to pass a sports betting bill last year. While a bill did pass overwhelmingly in the House, it did not garner support in the Senate, where legislators there filed a competing bill. The House bill sought the Lottery Commission to regulate sports betting, while the Senate bill gave that responsibility to the Casino Commission.

The committee received testimony over a two-month span from several other interest groups, all providing their own point of view.

For example, the state’s casinos pushed for exclusive control of the sports betting licenses. They called on lawmakers to give the casinos and racinos access to three each that they could then, in turn, offer to operators.

Lawmakers even heard from trade groups, such as grocery stores and bowling alleys, that want to see a lottery-based sports betting product available. On Tuesday, the Fair Gaming Coalition of Ohio posted four tweets in response to Ohio Statehouse News Chief Karen Kasler’s tweet about the pro sports group’s effort.

“The Ohio Lottery currently has the ability to conduct sports betting,” the Fair Gaming Coalition tweeted. “What the casinos and pro sports teams are advocating for strips the state of Ohio of that ability and strips funds from education that are desperately needed.”

Ohio Sports Betting Bill to Drop

As the committee wrapped up its listening sessions, its chairman, State Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, said a bill would be released sometime after the legislature returned from a two-week break in mid-April.

On Monday, he told News-Talk 1480 WHBC in Canton that he’s been talking to other members of the committee and compiling a list of bullet points to consider for the bill. As of Monday, that list was at nearly 200 items, and Schuring added he expected it to grow.

He said he was expecting to meet with Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, on Tuesday to let him “fine tune” that list.

“Hopefully, after after he and I meet sometime this week, we’ll be able to give the language to the Legislative Service Commission to start drafting” a bill, Schuring said. “There are a lot of moving parts on this bill, and I can’t get into the specifics right now.”