Sports Betting Edges Closer in Ohio

As the sports betting revolution continues to sweep the US, the state of Ohio has been edging closer to legalization, but one of the key players in the state has cautioned about over-optimistic predictions. 

Senator John Eklund, who is one of the sponsors of the sports betting process, has suggested that the process will proceed one step at a time, but that much of the detail included in the draft bill HB194, including specifics on license fees, tax rates, skins, and official league data are still to be decided upon, which means it is far from certain that sports betting will be legalized this year. 

Placeholder Provisions

Eklund has described the majority of the existing draft for HB194 as temporary provisions that may not end up in the final bill:

Those provisions include the proposal that each of the 11 license holders could apply for three separate ‘skins,’ providing for a potential market of 33 betting brands. The bill also stipulates a tax rate of 8%, along with a $100,000 fee to apply for a five-year license for all casinos and racinos, while betting management services providers will have to pay a fee of $10,000.

One of the few firm proposals in the current draft is the regulator. The House in the Ohio state legislature wanted the Ohio Lottery to be the regulatory oversight body for the new sports betting sector, but according to Eklund, opinion seems to have shifted, and the House sponsors of the bill have accepted the proposal for the Casino Commission to run the industry.

Optimistic Assessment

But others who are following developments in Ohio have taken a more upbeat assessment, including analysts ZHF Consulting. The VP of Government Relations for ZHF, Dan Dodd, has been reported as saying that he doesn’t think the draft provisions will change much and that given the normal routine of the Ohio legislature, which has traditionally done a lot of business in the lame-duck session, he expected the bill to be passed by the end of the year, despite Eklund’s public caution.

The Problem with Skins

If there is one issue that could yet cause unexpected delays, it could be the question of how the skins aspect of the law is to be implemented.

The draft bill specifically requires casinos to use all three of their available sports betting skins. That could be a significant problem for a casino company like Penn National. Penn operates four of the eleven casinos in Ohio, which would mean it would be required to strike sports betting deals with twelve separate sportsbooks. Penn has already made deals with DraftKings, Fox Bet, TheScore Bet, and PointsBet, along with its own Barstool Sportsbook.

That still leaves plenty of work for them to do if they are to comply with the proposed rules, while it could yet prove a significant problem for other casinos, who would prefer to strike deals with just one sportsbook, which has been the pattern across the US.

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