ith the Ohio Senate currently drafting new sports betting legislation following weeks of hearings before its Select Committee on Gaming, the state's major league teams, casinos and small businesses want a stake in the legalized market.
Legalized sports betting is growing nationwide both in land-based and online channels, and it could be coming to Ohio with legislation possibly just days away, FOX8 reports. “It’s been a tremendous growth story,” Casey Clark, Senior Vice President of Strategic Communications for the American Gaming Association (AGA), said about the market expansion in the US, where 27 states and Washington D.C. have legalized sports betting. “We’ve seen really remarkable growth in legislatures and appetite for it from American consumers who want a safe, regulated, legal way to bet.”
Neighboring Indiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have all launched sports betting and Michigan followed in late-January. Through March, the state reports more than $863 million was wagered on sports in casinos and online, generating more than $2 million in state and city taxes. “All of that indicates a pretty steep migration from the predatory illegal market that’s been serving the American sports bettor for a long time,” Clark said.
Lawmakers have said sports betting legislation could be introduced within days. In Ohio, past bills stalled in the state legislature amid disagreement over who should regulate sports betting: the Ohio Lottery Commission or the Ohio Casino Control Commission. Supporters of the legalization say, without legalization, business and taxes from betting are leaving Ohio as bettors go elsewhere or turn to the black market.
Casino operators, including JACK Entertainment and MGM Resorts International, want to add sports betting to their gaming portfolios. “What we think is most important is bringing that current market into Ohio under a legal umbrella and not creating that need to go to another state or find another outlet,” said JACK Entertainment SVP of Government Affairs Dan Reinhard. “What we hear from our customers is they’re excited for a product like this.” He said the company views sports betting not as a profit center but as a way to draw new customers to its properties.
Ohio’s casinos and racinos have argued only they should be authorized to offer retail and online sports betting and can best maintain standards under gaming regulations. “Most importantly, it’s gambling,” Reinhard said. “Any way we want to paint it, any way we want to look at it, it’s gambling.”
Cleveland’s pro sports teams have told lawmakers this shouldn’t be a casino monopoly, and they, too, want a piece of the profit pie. “We would like to see legalized sports betting in Ohio as soon as possible,” Haslam Sports Group General Counsel Ted Tywang told lawmakers last month.
Ohio’s professional sports teams last week released a joint statement calling for legalization by the end of June. “We are the sports in sports betting,” the Ohio Professional Sports Coalition said in the statement. They want official league data used to settle bets and for each pro sports team to have its own mobile license and retail sportsbook.
“Every sports bet accepted by a gaming operator stems from the content created by all of Ohio’s professional teams,” Cavaliers CEO Len Komoroski told lawmakers last month. “The legislature should allow said teams to capitalize on the very event we’re putting on.”
The Ohio Fair Gaming Coalition has lobbied for small businesses including bars, bowling centers and convenience stores to be able to offer sports betting, too.
For its part, the council representing 14 Ohio public universities wants college sports excluded from betting. “We have compliance issues. It’s expensive. It also potentially compromises the integrity of the game,” Inter-University Council of Ohio President Bruce Johnson said.