By this time next month, Ohio lawmakers may be ready to move forward on a sports betting bill.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) told members of the Senate Select Committee on Gaming last Wednesday that the committee will meet twice more before the end of the month to gather testimony from interested parties.
In early April, Schuring, who chairs the committee, said he would reach out to all members to get their feedback. That would coincide with a scheduled two-week break for lawmakers.
Then, I’ll be conferring with the Senate president after I have a chance to talk to everybody on the committee,” Schuring said. “From that point, we’ll build a bill, we’ll introduce a bill. And when we all come back after the break, we will be discussing a bill.”
Last year, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a sports betting bill by an 83-10 margin. However, that bill did not gain traction in the Senate, where a competing bill was filed. For this session, legislative leaders formed the committee to gather information on sports betting and other gaming issues, including e-bingo.
Ohio Pro Teams Reiterate Call for Sports Betting Licenses
Every fall, the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns renew their rivalry during the NFL season. However, this past week found the two AFC North squads on the same side.
Officials from both football teams went to Columbus to talk to Ohio lawmakers about sports betting. Like the Cincinnati Reds did the week before, officials from both teams urged committee members to not exclude the state’s major professional teams from the opportunity.
Ted Tywang, who serves as the vice president and general counsel for the Haslem Sports Group, said each top-tier professional team, plus the PGA Tour, which holds the Memorial Tournament outside of Columbus, needs to have access to sports betting licenses. Those franchises would then create partnerships with eligible sports betting operators
The Haslem organization owns the Browns and the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer. Under the pro teams’ pitch, both would be among the nine franchises or organizations eligible for a license.
Each casino and racino would also get one license. That would mean up to 20 sports betting operators could compete in the state.
“This optimal market structure would create robust competition and encourage innovation while avoiding over-saturation of the market and consumer confusion,” Tywang said.
Other Groups Seek a Cut, Too
When Schuring starts to compile his information after the hearings end on March 31, he’ll have lots of testimony to digest. Besides representatives from major sports teams and colleges, the committee has heard from casinos and other interested parties.
The pro teams aren’t the only ones who want to be involved in sports betting if Ohio lawmakers legalize it. Groups representing the state’s grocery stores and bowling alleys also say they should be able to offer a sports betting product to their customers.
In separate testimonies, representatives for the two groups described a lottery-style sports betting product they would offer. That product would not be as robust as licensed sportsbooks or mobile sports betting applications.
“So, really, all we’re talking about are the scraps that will be left,” said David Corey, executive vice president of the Bowling Centers Association of Ohio two weeks ago. “But those scraps are so important to our local Ohio businesses.”