Odds Of Legal Sports betting in Ohio Are Shrinking By The Day

Ohio lawmakers introduced a new draft of a proposed sports betting bill. The last-minute changes further diminish the state’s already marginal chances of legalizing sports betting this year.

Senator John Eklund introduced a substitute to SB 111, with a critical change essentially limiting the market to just one skin per casino.

The Senate and the House now have just a couple of weeks to approve the new version. Sponsors of the bill still think sports betting in Ohio has a chance of being legalized this year. But with the short amount of time remaining in the legislative session and the state’s inability to pass previous sports betting efforts, the odds are growing longer.

Call for a Single Skins Market

Senators John Eklund and Sean O’Brien introduced SB 111 earlier this year. The legislation would allow the state’s casinos and racinos to offer sports betting. In September, the bill permitted each operator three skins, or sports betting website brands. That number dropped to two in November, and Eklund’s latest last-minute draft has limited things to just one skin per casino/racino.

This continued watering down of the sports betting legislation indicates there’s still some resistance to legalization. The changes make a compromise between the Ohio House and Senate more complicated, and with time running out, the matter might be shelved until 2021.

As Eilers & Krejcik Gaming recently noted, outgoing Senate President Larry Obhof is still not on board with sports betting. E&K sources believe, “Ohio is unlikely to legalize sports betting this year (the phrases “longshot” and “very bearish” were used by checks).”

Initially, operators were more than satisfied with a multi-skin option, with several potential stakeholders mentioning it in written testimony.

As per Eklund’s comments:

“We’ve chosen to limit it to one skin, so you don’t have a proliferation.

“I will tell you on that score we have it on authority from people I trust that multiple brands can be a problem down the line, so we’re proposing that we stick to one online brand per location with the idea that if it becomes important and beneficial for the people of the state of Ohio to add more brands, that can be done with the switch of a statute down the road.

“It’s a lot easier to do than undo an untoward and inappropriate flood of online sports gaming.”

Predicting the Operators in a Single Skin Market

Most of the casinos/racinos eligible for a sports betting license already have some type of partnership with operators in other states. It’s expected that these partnerships would cross into Ohio as well.

Some of the likely scenarios include:

  • Penn National, which operates four casinos in Ohio, will almost certainly use the Barstool Sportsbook.
  • Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati is likely to launch its eponymously branded sports betting platform. That is even more likely after yesterday’s Hard Rock Digital news.
  • MGM Northfield Park is a lock to launch a BetMGM sportsbook.
  • Belterra Park Gaming and Entertainment Center has a partnership with FanDuel in Indiana.
  • Caesars Entertainment’s Scioto Downs Racino is expected to use William Hill online sportsbook.
  • Churchill Downs’ BetAmerica sportsbook seems likely at Miami Valley Gaming harness race track/casino.

Last Chance for Ohio Sports Betting This Year

Lawmakers adopted the amended sports betting bill in the hearing on December 8th, which is seen as the last effort to pass the long-stalled legislation before the end of 2020.

The proposal needs to advance out of the General Government Committee and through the full Senate. The two chambers then need to resolve any differences between the bills and pass identical versions. Some lawmakers have other issues with the proposal beyond the number of skins. Those concerns range from tax rates and license fees to the expansion of gambling.

It’s also unclear how much of a priority sports betting is during the lame-duck session. The legislature is dealing with a number of COVID-related issues, and at last count, still has over 100 bills to consider.

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