Ohio Senators Amend Sports Betting in Gaming Bill, e-Bingo Worries Casinos

Posted on: May 13, 2021, 11:50h. 

Last updated on: July 7, 2021, 01:32h.

The Ohio state Senate committee that drafted the current sports betting bill met Wednesday for the first time since its initial version was unveiled last week. Already, there are some changes that have been made.

Ohio sports betting
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow attempts a pass against the host Cleveland Browns in their Week 2 contest during the 2020 season. Ohio’s NFL teams have been proponents of legalizing sports betting in the state. (Image: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The Senate Select Committee on Gaming’s first action was to accept an amended version of Senate Bill 176. Committee Vice Chair Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville), a joint sponsor of the bill with state Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg), went over the key changes with the panel.

This is a working bill,” Manning said. “Much of this work has been put in by Chairman (Kirk) Schuring (R-Canton). We will continue to work on this bill. So I expect more changes to come.”

One of the biggest changes off the bat was that the amended bill now allows the state’s casinos and racinos to operate brick-and-mortar sportsbooks – aka, the Type B license – at their gaming properties. The initial bill excluded them from that.

Still, lawmakers have given the Ohio Casino Control Commission the ability to use regional factoring in determining where retail sportsbooks can be established. Schuring, in past comments, has said that the brick-and-mortar establishments should be seen as job creators and a way to foster economic growth. 

For the mobile – or type A – license holders, Manning said the amended bill will allow them to subcontract with as many mobile operators as they want. However, the applicant must “have or create a substantial Ohio presence” in order to get that license.

Lottery Format Unchanged, For Now

While there were changes to the two main sports betting formats, the retail and mobile licenses, nothing essentially changed on the proposed format for the lottery’s sports betting product.

The lottery product is, in essence, a pari-mutuel sports betting offering where, for $20, a bettor can pick the winner of a game. The lottery would take a commission off the bet, and then those that pick the winning side will split the proceeds.

“Including Ohio’s retailers in sports betting is incredibly important, as legalizing sports betting should primarily seek to help Ohio businesses,” Antani said. “I believe very strongly that Ohio’s lottery retailers must be included in sports gaming.”

However, it may not necessarily be the type of sports betting opportunity small business proponents want to see from a lottery product. During the committee’s two-month series of hearings that helped members draft the bill, the panel heard from such business groups as the Bowling Centers Association of Ohio. They said sports betting could help them and other small businesses attract customers to their establishments.

David Corey, the association’s executive vice president, said in his statement on March 10 that a simplified sports betting product that offers same-day and parlay wagering would be an ideal concept.

Ohio Sports Betting Bill Basics

Under SB 176, both Type A and Type B licenses would cost $1 million for three years. The renewal fee would also be $1 million. The state would offer up to 20 Type A and 20 Type B licenses.

Ohio would tax sportsbooks at 10 percent of their net revenue. The bill calls for 2 percent of the state’s proceeds to fund gambling addiction services, with the rest funding public and private education.

The bill also covers other gaming opportunities, including allowing veteran, fraternal, and charitable organizations to offer “e-bingo,” or electronic instant bingo machines. It also would create a committee to delve into iLottery and what potential impacts that might create for the state’s retail lottery outlets.

Concern Raised Over e-Bingo Language

While Ohio’s casino operators are pushing for sports betting, that’s not to say that several don’t have issues with the bill.

On Thursday, a group called Get Gaming Right Ohio issued a press release in conjunction with the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio that raised concerns over the “e-bingo” machines. 

Get Gaming Right is backed by JACK Entertainment, MGM Resorts, and Penn National Gaming – entities that operate seven of the state’s 11 casinos or racinos.

The groups said the law, as currently written, would allow an unlimited number of casino-style video gaming terminals to be placed in 876 locations across the state.

Derek Longmeier, the Problem Gambling Network’s executive director, said in a statement that the current bill does not include “an appropriate regulatory framework” to oversee the gaming machines.

“SB 176 does not currently contain the necessary consumer protections to mitigate the harm that will result from introducing e-bingo in Ohio,” he said. “The bill contains no requirements to ensure the e-bingo staff, whether paid or volunteer, are consistently trained to respond to those experiencing a gambling problem.”

What the bill includes, according to a fact sheet on the Ohio Senate’s website, is a provision that gives the state Attorney General oversight authority. Currently, the OCCC oversees the state’s four casinos, while the Lottery Commission has authority over the seven racinos, which offer video lottery terminals.

The bill, though, would allow the OCCC to inspect the “e-bingo” machines to ensure they’re not slot machines.