Sports betting made its way onto the Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee agenda in Ohio on Wednesday, but the third hearing on SB 111 netted little in terms of advancing the bill. Representatives from six major operators and industry group iDEA Growth submitted written testimony favoring the legalization of statewide mobile/online sports betting in Ohio sooner than later, but only one, Adam Suliman of Jack Entertainment, appeared in person at the hearing. There was no vote.
“We are excited about the prospect of adding physical sportsbooks and related amenities at our properties here in Ohio,” Suliman testified. “Although the sports wagering business is an incredibly low-margin business, we feel it’s a crucial amenity. … Our customers tell me regularly that they are looking forward to a day in the near future when they can wager legally on their favorite sporting event.”
The hearing was the third on legal sports betting by the committee. Lawmakers in both chambers favor statewide mobile sports betting and low tax rates and do not support a “royalty” payment of any sort to the professional leagues. Among the major holdups along the way has been a disagreement over what agency should regulate sports betting and the tax rate. The Senate favors the state’s Casino Control Commission and the House favors the Ohio Lottery, but the latest version of HB 194 names the casino commission as regulator and sets the tax rate at 8%, down from 10%.
According to the bill, operators with digital platforms must be tethered to brick-and-mortar casinos, and each retail location is entitled to two mobile skins, or platforms. A previous version of the bill allowed for three per location. The licensing and application fees are $100,000, and a license fee is valid for three years.
SB 111 remains in committee while HB 194 passed the House and was introduced in the Senate in June.
Operators supportive, but still want some changes
“I commend the sponsors for their diligent work on reconciling the House and Senate sports betting drafts,” wrote MGM Vice President of Government Affairs Rick Limardo. “The most recent version by the sponsors reflects feedback from all sides and is in line with many of the other successful sports betting regimes already implemented across the country, including the states surrounding Ohio.”
But that is neither here nor there if there are no votes and the bills don’t move forward in the next few weeks. Key sponsors in both the Senate and House won’t be back next year, so time is of the essence.
Operators had plenty to say, mostly through written testimony.
“We believe legal sports betting has the potential to provide a meaningful shot in the arm to Ohio’s gaming industry and to provide a new revenue stream to help fund important state programs and services,” wrote Penn National Senior Vice President, Public Affairs & Government Relations D. Eric Schippers.
Wrote MGM’s Limardo: “Ohio residents currently have convenient access to illegal, unregulated mobile sports wagering sites such as Bovada and others. However, they lack a legal, properly regulated alternative. Restricting a legal mobile market will not compel people into brick-and-mortar facilities or prevent them from wagering on sports; it will merely keep people on the existing black market.”
Penn National operates four casinos in Ohio and earlier this year partnered with Barstool Sports. Penn National launched the first Barstool Sportsbook app in Pennsylvania in September, with plans to launch in Michigan as soon as regulators allow — both states border Ohio, which is all but surrounded by states that allow statewide digital sports betting.
MGM also operates in Ohio border states Indiana and West Virginia, with plans to launch in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
This article is a reprint from SportsHandle.com. To view the original story and comment, click here.