Ohio Sports Betting Bill Moves Forward
A bipartisan bill that would authorize sports betting in Ohio’s 11 gaming facilities—including Hollywood Casino Columbus (l.)—online and through mobile apps has been introduced in the Senate. If it passes and is adopted in the House, the Buckeye State would become the eighth state to legalize sports betting.
Senate Bill 111, an 146-page document that would legalize sports betting in Ohio’s four casinos and seven racinos, as well as online and through mobile platforms, was introduced three weeks ago by Senators John Eklund and Sean O’Brien, who are from different parties.
If passed in the Senate, adopted in the House and signed by Governor Mike DeWine the Buckeye State would become the eighth state to legalize sports betting, including three immediate neighbors, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.
Current estimates are that the mostly underground industry accounts for up to $150 billion a year nationally.
Jay Masurekar, head of gaming and travel investment banking at Cleveland’s KeyBanc Capital Markets bewails the timing for the bill. He told Crain’s Cleveland Business: “We’re losing opportunities to market our state to the younger demographic. By always lagging behind to any new thing — I saw a quote: ‘We don’t want to be first; we want to be the best’ — but the best people are ahead of the curve. The best people are exploring new things, trying new things.”
Eklund says he hopes the Senate will soon hold hearings on the bill and that it will be approved later this year.
Rick Lertzman, an Ohioan who has plans to push a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting for the 2020 ballot, is skeptical of Eklund’s predictions. “They definitely won’t have it. It’s a no-go in Ohio. It could be a very profitable industry and something that can benefit not just casinos but every restaurant and bar in the state.”
Eklund’s bill would put sports betting under the Ohio Casino Control Commission. It would drive business into restaurants and bars, says Masurekar. “Once they get on the app, they’ll sit in the local bar and restaurant watching these games. Super Bowl weekend in New Jersey, the restaurants were completely full because of that.”
He argues that sports book could be a $4 billion market in the state, which would bring n about $200 million to the state’s racinos and casinos. A 6.25 percent tax would net $12.5 in state taxes.
Masurekar concedes that sports betting isn’t especially profitable for casinos, but that it brings in traffic. For that reason it could be very helpful to bars and restaurants. But from the standpoint of state taxes, the more people who visit a casino, and then play games that can be taxed at 33 percent, the better for the state, he says.
Eklund adds, “I’m of the mind it’s probably not going to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If we’re trying to repair every broken bridge and road in the state, $30 million isn’t going to make much of a dent. To me, the question is where can the resources be applied most purposefully?”