Sports betting bill introduction expected soon

COLUMBUS — Like competing teams flashing style and muscle in pre-game warmups, opposing forces in the fight over legalized sports betting have taken the court, hoping the competition goes their way once it begins.  

The competition will determine who controls the regulatory process and who can participate in the multi-billion dollar system to be created.

So far the battle is shaping up to feature a band of small businesses versus large casinos. The casinos prefer sports betting be done at their facilities, arguing that they are already heavily regulated by the state of Ohio.

Likewise, the casinos argue, if sports betting is legalized, it should be controlled by the Ohio Casino Control Commission. Some aspect of remote wagering by cell phone has also been discussed.

In response, small business groups want the Ohio Lottery Commission to be in charge.  

“The casinos want another monopoly, this time a sports betting monopoly,” said David Corey, head of the Bowling Centers Association of Ohio.  

Corey called upon state lawmakers to reject the notion that the casinos should be given the upper hand and control of sports betting, should it be legalized in Ohio.

“On behalf of the 10,000 bowling centers and other small business that already serve as lottery vendors I insist that this is a terrible idea,” Corey said.

Gary Beswick, of the Ohio Fair Gaming Coalition, said small businesses should not be left out of the sports betting equation. He fears if the new sports betting system is handed to the Casino Control Commission, anyone outside of the casino industry will be cut out.

“We are looking for a solution that allows all corners of the state, all cities, all businesses to take part in this and the way to do this is through the Ohio Lottery,” Beswick said.

The Ohio Lottery Commission currently regulates the lottery and racinos like the Hollywood at Dayton Raceway in Dayton and Miami Valley Gaming in Turtlecreek Township, Warren County. Both locations feature horse racing and electronic gaming machines.

A formal legislative proposal is expected to be introduced soon. Lawmakers worked last year to pass a sports betting plan but were sidetracked by the COVID crisis. This year a legislative committee has been meeting and taking testimony from interested parties once a week.

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