Ohio Casinos Fight Back Against Sports Betting Expansion Bill

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Ohio Casino owners have fought back against a proposed expansion in gambling that could allow even Ford Motor Company to have sports betting.

On Wednesday, Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming met for a brief period in its first hearing to get its sports betting bill- SB 176- to the floor of the legislature before the governor’s desk for final signature.

Just two state senators, who co-sponsored the bill, testified and announced changes to the bill. Under the changes, the bill would also allow uncapped mobile licenses in an unprecedented setup in US sports betting.

The proposal has every reason to provoke Ohio casino owners who responded swiftly.

What Did Ohio Casino Owners Say?

A press release from Get Gaming Right Ohio warned that SB 176 would create slot-like electronic bingo games in as many as 900 locations across the Buckeye State. The group- supported by MGM Resorts International, Jack Entertainment, and Penn National- is committed to educating the residents about the need for responsible, limited, and legalized sports betting. It warned that these new gambling locations would offer “unprecedented and unchecked gambling access” to the state residents, including teenagers.

Critics of the organization however maintain the so-called altruistic warning by the organization is more about the vested interest than a concern for the general public.

Why Are Casino Owners Against the Gambling Expansion?

MGM, JACK, and Penn own seven of the 11 casinos and racinos in Ohio. Any gambling bill expanding slot-like machines is against their business interests. For the same reason, Get Gaming Right Casino also rejected HB 65, which calls for electronic bingo expansion.

The three operators are also perturbed over reports they might not be awarded Ohio sports betting licenses.

What Happened on Wednesday?

Ohio Senate Select Committee Gaming hearing concluded in 15 minutes, and all that brief duration was dedicated to change a few aspects of the bill.

Sen. Nathan Manning, the vice-chair of the committee and co-sponsor of the bill, explained changes, dealing with the two types of sports betting licenses.

The 20 Type-A licenses, meant for mobile operators who must tether to companies with “substantial Ohio presence”.

Any mobile sportsbook may connect to one of the 11 existing casinos or racinos in Ohio. But it may not if it wants to partner with any non-casino entity. “For the Type A, it clarifies that you do need to have some sort of presence in Ohio.”

Manning clarified that they are not restricting the Type A licenses to a racino/casino; they can use them as a presence or they can use some other presence. “Whether they want to set up shop here themselves, or someone threw out the example if Ford wanted to have a license… somebody that has people working and presence in Ohio.”

Moreover, language in the text was changed regarding Type A license holders to “subcontract with as many (online operators) as they want,” Manning said.

Another Big Change for Type B Licenses

Another significant change involved Type B, land-based sportsbook licenses. In the original text, Type A license holders could not seek a Type B license, meaning existing casinos/racinos would be excluded from retail sports betting. The new changes allowed for a Type A license holder to also have a Type B license.

In addition, another change increased the discretionary power of the Casino Control Commission over deciding and awarding licenses. The commission is likely to consider the matter while keeping the fact which potential operator would be economically more viable for the state. The original bill would be based on a “first come, first serve” element in decision making.

An Open-Market Approach

The three casino operators have not made any public comment as the Wednesday meeting did not include any public testimony. But the outcome of the meeting is not likely to bring any rejoice to them.

But the bill’s two joint sponsors and other lawmakers said they preferred an open-market approach, meaning those 40 licenses would be granted through open bidding.

Most stakeholders, including casinos, pro sports teams, and leagues in the state, had lobbied for the mobile licenses to be tethered with existing gaming operations.

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