Ohio Sports Betting Sponsors Reach Agreement, But Time’s Running Out for Passage

Posted on: December 9, 2020, 07:26h. 

Last updated on: December 9, 2020, 11:14h.

Sponsors of the competing sports betting bills in the Ohio Legislature tell Casino.org they’ve reached an agreement on legislative language. However, time is running out to get it passed.

Ohio sports betting
Ohio state Sen. John Eklund (R) discusses an amended version of his sports betting bill at Tuesday’s Senate General Government and Agency Committee. (Image: The Ohio Channel)

On Tuesday, the Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee accepted a substitute bill for Senate Bill 111 at the request of state Sen. John Eklund (R-Munson Township), who co-sponsors the bill with state Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta).

That bill wasn’t available for review. However, in an interview after the committee meeting, Eklund said the substitute bill came as a result of work between Senate sponsors, sponsors of the House bill, representatives of Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration, the Ohio Department of Taxation, and others.

“I think the cake is baked, for all practical purposes,” Eklund told Casino.org.

HB 194 Revisited

“The amended version of (SB) 111 is the same amended version of (HB) 194,” Greenspan told Casino.org Tuesday night. “It’s essentially the same bill.” State Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake) sponsored House Bill 194 with state Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati).

The House sports betting bill cleared that chamber in May with an 83-10 vote. Despite that, Eklund said the new Senate Bill would be the one used if sports betting is to pass through the legislature. That would require the House to pass that bill if the Senate passes SB11.

The committee, though, didn’t vote on the bill Tuesday. The next scheduled committee meeting is next Tuesday, though Eklund said the committee may meet before then.

After Wednesday, the state House has two optional sessions listed on the legislative calendar for Dec. 16 and 17. The Senate has a session currently scheduled for Dec. 17 and three other optional sessions between Thursday and Dec. 22.

One Skin Per Property

The amended bill limits sports betting licenses to Ohio’s four casinos and seven racinos. They would pay a $100,000 annual application fee and a $100,000 annual license fee. Fraternal organizations are no longer eligible entities for sports betting licenses, Eklund said.

It also permits mobile apps. The casinos and racinos would have one skin per location. That language could keep operators like DraftKings, PointsBet, theScore, and Fox Bet from entering the state.

Each of those operators has agreements with Penn National Gaming to operate sports betting skins. PNG has two casinos and two racinos. But since reaching those agreements last year, the company has purchased a share of Barstool Sports. It’s using the sports media outlet as its own in-house sportsbook.

All other casinos and racinos have established partnerships or in-house brands. See the map below for more information on those arrangements.

Ohio Legislative Leadership Mum on Sports Betting Bill

While sponsors in both chambers and the governor’s office have come to a consensus, Eklund said neither Senate nor House leaders are tipping their hand yet about the bill.

I don’t necessarily blame them, but I think the fact that, from my perspective, many members are eager to get this done,” Eklund told Casino.org. “And, since I’ve not had a ‘stop’ sign from leadership in either chamber, suggests to me we’re in as good a position as we can be in.”

If the bill fails to get through the legislature this month, the process will have to start over again, as a new legislature will convene next year. However, of the sponsors of the House and Senate bills, only Kelly will return.

Eklund could not run for re-election due to term limits. He said he has not heard from any colleagues about picking up the legislation for the next session.