Sports Betting Legislation Makes Slight Progress in Ohio, Stalls in Massachusetts

  • Ohio Senate Committee members are discussing sports betting legislation
  • Legislators are divided on what agency should oversee betting
  • The Massachusetts Senate rejected the idea of adding sports betting to the 2021 fiscal budget
Hands giving a thumbs up and thumbs down
Sports betting legislation is still on the table in Ohio, but the Massachusetts Senate has given the thumbs-down to an amendment that would legalize the pastime. [Image:]

One step forward, one step back

Sports betting legislation efforts in Ohio are slowly moving forward while a proposed amendment was shot down in Massachusetts this week. Both states saw different outcomes during recent meetings of lawmakers.

In Ohio, a Senate committee held a short hearing on an in-progress bill, accepting testimony from six gaming operators. Not much was accomplished, but the overall reception was reportedly a positive one. In Massachusetts, the Senate rejected an amendment to allow casinos, racetracks, and online operators to apply for sports betting licenses.

Ohio sports betting legislation

The Ohio Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee added sports betting legislation to its agenda this week. This was the third hearing to take place regarding SB 111. Six major operators submitted testimony to show support for online and mobile sports betting in Ohio. iDEA Growth, an industry group, also sent in written testimony.

looking forward to a day in the near future when they can wager legally”

JACK Entertainment decided to forgo the written portion and sent vice president of online gaming Adam Suliman to testify in person. In his discussion with the Committee, Suliman said his company was excited at the prospect of adding physical sports betting locations to its properties in the state. The brand sees the services as low margin but crucial to operations. Suliman added: “Our customers tell me regularly that they are looking forward to a day in the near future when they can wager legally on their favorite sporting event.”

Lawmakers in the House and Senate favor mobile sports betting and low tax rates for operators. Among the reasons that legislation is taking so long to move forward are a disagreement on who should be in charge of regulation and the exact tax rate.

Legislative conflicts

The Senate wants to see the Casino Control Commission in charge, while the House would like the Ohio Lottery to oversee the industry. In May, HB 194 passed in the House, put the Lottery Commission in charge, and set a 10% tax rate. The latest version of the measure now has the Casino Control Commission overseeing the industry and an 8% tax rate.

SB 111 is still in committee. The Senate first saw HB 194 back in June, and legislators have until the end of the year to approve it. In the case of a rejection, there will be a need for new sponsors next year as the current sponsors of the measures lost their re-election races in November.

Massachusetts Senate rejects sports betting

In Massachusetts, the Senate has rejected an amendment that would legalize sports betting in the state. The fiscal 2021 budget is long overdue and during this week’s discussions, lawmakers cut Minority Leader Bruce Tarr’s amendment without even a roll call vote. The revenue from application fees would help provide money for a new economic recovery fund.

Efforts to see sports betting legalized in Massachusetts have been long-running. Back in July, the House of Representatives rejected an amended version of an economic development bill that removed sports betting legalization and allowed for online lottery ticket sales. The House is seemingly supportive of sports betting to bring in new revenue streams, while Senate members are not sold on the idea.

During the recent meeting, Tarr and other members of the Senate talked about the importance of capturing revenue from sports betting. Senator Marc Pacheco pointed out that the state is losing revenue, as residents go to nearby states to place their bets.

Estimates show that sports betting in Massachusetts could generate as much as $35m per year. Pacheco said that if sports betting does not pass in this bill, the legislature will need to work harder to see it pass this year, adding:

I am very concerned that we are going to be missing the boat on this.”

It is unclear if the Senate would consider taking sports betting back up before the session ends in January.

Sports betting approved in other states

In early November, voters in Louisiana, South Dakota, and Maryland approved sports betting measures. Lawmakers will discuss the specifics of sports betting for each state during next year’s legislative sessions.

In Maryland, voters just had to check yes or no to confirm whether they wanted to see sports betting legalized. In Louisiana, 55 of the state’s 64 parishes approved sports betting locally.

In South Dakota, more than 58% of the voters approved Constitutional Amendment B, allowing tribal reservations and retail outlets in Deadwood to begin offering sports betting by July 2021.

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