Ohio Senators Making Last-Minute Sports Betting Push, Missouri Senator Setting Up for 2021

  • Ohio Senators are trying to get sports betting legalized before the end of the year
  • The replacement Ohio Senate bill would reduce the number of skins per licensee to one
  • Ohio license duration would be cut from five to three years
  • Missouri’s Senator Hoskins wants to keep sports bettors from sending money out of state
Man pushing boulder up a hill
Two Ohio state senators have modified a sports betting bill to make it more likely to pass before the end of the month, while a state senator in Missouri has pre-filed a bill to prepare for next year. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Trying to get things done

Lawmakers in both Ohio and Missouri are making end-of-year pushes to legalize sports betting in their respective states. The charge in Ohio appears to be the more pressing of the two, as there is little time left in 2020 and the process would have to start over in 2021. Down in Missouri, the legislature’s second extraordinary session has ended, so it appears that things will pick back up with a Senate bill when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

approved a motion to review a substitute bill for SB 111

On Tuesday, the Ohio Senate General Government Agency Review Committee approved a motion to review a substitute bill for SB 111 next week. Sen. John Eklund (R – Munson Township) and Sen. Sean O’Brien (D – Bazetta) co-sponsored the bill. It is not radically different from the original SB 111, but there are changes to convince any colleagues who might be apprehensive about diving into sports betting to give it a chance.

Missouri State Sen. Denny Hoskins (R – Warrensburg) pre-filed SB 18 last week, which would legalize sports betting on the state’s 13 riverboat casinos. He filed it just before the end of the second extraordinary session, which could mean the bill will be ready to go when the Senate meets again next year.

Fewer Ohio skins to go around

As mentioned, the changes to Ohio’s SB 111 don’t turn the bill on its head, but at the same time, they will not sit well with the sports betting industry. Ohio has four casinos and seven racinos, all of which can apply for sports betting licenses. Originally, SB 111 allowed each license holder to have three online sports betting skins. HB 194 lowered the number to two, but now the substitute SB 111 chops that to just one.

The problem that causes for operators is that many of them might have trouble accessing the Ohio market. DraftKings, Fox Bet, PointsBet, and theScore all have skin deals with Penn National Gaming, which itself operates two casinos and two racinos. Penn also acquired about a third of Barstool Sports this year and plans to use Barstool as its sportsbook operator. With only one skin per casino/racino, that could leave the other sports betting companies out in the cold.

Fees have also increased in the substitute bill. The original SB 111 imposed a $100,000 application fee and a $100,000 licensing fee on casinos and racinos for a five-year term. The prices are still the same, but now the licensing period is down to three years. Sportsbook operators would pay a $50,000 application fee and a $500,000 licensing fee. The tax rate remains 8%.

Missouri betting would benefit higher education

Missouri’s Sen. Hoskins calculated that legal, regulated sports betting could contribute from $37m to $50m in new tax revenue for the state. It appears that both professional sports and collegiate sports are fair game, whereas some states at least partially restrict betting on collegiate sports.

regulated sports betting could contribute from $37m to $50m in new tax revenue

SB 18 does, however, impose a 0.25% royalty fee on the amount wagered on FBS college football and Division I college basketball, which it will distribute to Missouri’s public colleges and universities that have teams that compete at those levels.

Licensed casinos must pay an annual administrative fee of $50,000 and then another $10,000 every five years for a “reinvestigation of the certificate holder,” an application fee of sorts. The tax rate would be 9% of gross adjusted receipts.

One of Hoskins’ primary motivations for getting the ball rolling on sports betting is to curb the flow of money pouring out of the state. Iowa to the north, Illinois to the east, and Arkansas to the south have all legalized sports betting, encouraging Missourians to cross the border to place their bets.

A House bill introduced in January 2020 did not make significant progress.