Ohio lawmakers stirred up a hornets’ nest when they put sports gambling on the table. Anyone and everyone in the state wants a piece of the action and is doing everything possible to be included. The Ohio Select Committee on Gaming met on Wednesday to discuss a sports gambling bill, where it was inundated with input from representatives from grocery stores, bowling alleys, sports teams and more. It is apparent that, when and if the state legalizes sports gambling, more than a few people are not going to be happy with the way the market is designed.
Ohio Trying to Fast-track Sports Gambling
Ohio wants to have its sports gambling market up and running before the start of the football season this fall. However, if the hearing on Wednesday is any indication, there is still a lot of work to be done. The state presented its sports gambling bill, Senate Bill 176 (SB 176), at the beginning of the month and it has received a lot of negative feedback. The bill, which would authorize both mobile and in-person wagers, an online lottery and an online bingo, was expected to have an easy run toward legalization, but lawmakers underestimated the response.
SB 176 authorizes 40 sports gambling licenses, 20 for online sportsbooks (Type A licensees) and 20 for retail operators (Type B licenses). Professional sports teams, as well as casinos, could apply for a license, but they feel that the language of the bill is unclear and prevents them from launching a sportsbook without having a sportsbook partner. The entities are hoping to get lawmakers to change the language of the bill so that they can be guaranteed their own licenses. They also want the number of skins allowed to be limited, as opposed to the current outline of the bill, which would allow an unlimited number. One individual representing the Cincinnati Reds asserted, “The 20 Type A licenses should be limited to one skin, or brand, so there are only 20 online mobile skins operating in Ohio. Twenty skins are more than enough.”
The Long Road to Nowhere
The Ohio Select Committee on Gaming spent the past nine weeks gathering testimony from entities and individuals who wanted to weigh in on the state’s sports gambling framework. However, despite all of the input, it still hasn’t been able to put together a bill that will lead to quick approval. Lawmakers tried to include everyone, giving grocery stores and bowling alleys the ability to launch sports gambling pools in lieu of sportsbooks, but those entities scoff at the idea. Language that doesn’t clarify sports wagers at the college level has also come under fire.
It has become apparent that Ohio is going to have a difficult time wading into the world of sports wagers. Adding on a controversial rider that would allow odd bingo and lottery options only exacerbates the already precarious status of the subject in the state. If the bill is expected to be approved by next month, which is the only way sports gambling could be launched ahead of the upcoming NFL season, there is still a lot of work to do.