Tennessee House Committee Passes Sports Betting Regulation Bill, Ohio Legislation Ready for Proposal

  • Tennessee’s new House Bill 1267 would replace the state lottery as sports betting regulator
  • The bill will now head to the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee for consideration
  • Sen. Kirk Schuring said Ohio’s sports betting bill is ready for its introduction on Thursday
  • Three of Ohio’s major casino operators have teamed up to oppose electronic bingo legislation
The Tennessee State Capitol building
A Tennessee bill to replace the TEL as sports betting regulator has progressed, while an Ohio senator has confirmed new sports wagering legislation is almost ready for introduction. [Image of Tennessee State Capitol building: Shutterstock.com]

Legislative action in two states

A Tennessee House Committee has approved a new bill which would strip the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) of its regulatory powers. Instead, the legislation would hand duties over to the Sports Wagering Advisory Council (SWAC). After its approval on Monday, HB 1267 could reach the House floor later this week.

the Ohio legislation’s proponents plan to introduce it on Thursday

Meanwhile, Ohio legislators can expect to finally see a sports betting bill for the first time in 2021 later this week. Speaking on 1450 WHBC on Monday, State Senator Kirk Schuring confirmed that the Ohio legislation’s proponents plan to introduce it on Thursday, paving the way for lawmakers to have their say on the future legal market.

In other Ohio gambling news, legislation that would allow electronic bingo at veteran and fraternal organizations has come under fire. Three of the state’s top casino operators have teamed together to oppose the bill, arguing that it would diminish state tax revenue and put vulnerable gamblers at risk.

SWAC to replace TEL

The TEL has retained control over the state’s sports betting market since its launch in November 2020. Created in 2019 under the Sports Gaming Act, the SWAC currently acts in an advisory role to the regulator. The new legislation would essentially switch the duties of the two bodies.

I believe that the lottery and sports wagering are two different areas.”

Commenting during the hearing of HB 1267 on Monday, Rep. John Gillespie explained why he thinks the TEL may not be best suited for its current regulatory role. “I believe that the lottery and sports wagering are two different areas,” he commented, adding: “I believe that it’s best that they focus on their respective topics.”

Although the bill passed relatively swiftly through the House committee, some legislators did voice their objection to the regulatory upheaval. Most notably, the bill’s opponents argued that it would cost the state a seven-figure sum every year in additional expenses.

After its passage on Monday, HB 1267 will now head to the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee. The Senate unanimously approved companion bill SB 588 last month.

Long-awaited Ohio bill inbound

Due to the failure of previous Ohio sports betting legislation, the state’s lawmakers have taken a cautious approach in 2021. Since the beginning of the year, the Senate Select Committee on Gaming has heard testimonies from stakeholders in the industry, such as state lottery officials, gambling operators, and local businesses.

Now, Senator Kirk Schuring has confirmed Ohio betting legislation is ready for its introduction this Thursday. Lawmakers will unveil the bill during a press conference that day, but Schuring has warned that it is not yet finalized. “When we introduce it, we’re not saying it’s perfect, we’re saying, ‘OK, let’s have hearings, let’s have the interested parties come in,” he commented.

The senator did not provide any further information on the bill, meaning there are a few issues which remain up in the air. One such discussion is whether the Ohio Lottery or the Ohio Casino Commission will hold control over the industry’s regulation. Another contentious issue revolves around the inclusion of professional sports teams, which have made clear their desire for a share in the new market.

Ohio casino operators team up

JACK Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, and Penn National have formed a coalition to oppose new electronic bingo machine legislation in Ohio. The group, called Get Gaming Right Ohio (GGRO), released a statement on Monday morning calling for legislators to vote down the pending bill.

First introduced in February, House Bill 65 would allow 876 veteran and fraternal locations across Ohio to offer what GGRO has described as “underregulated casino-style slot machines.” The group argued that this will decrease state and education revenue, with gamblers drawn to the underregulated and untaxed machines at nearby venues.

annual $343m contributed to education by casinos and racinos through video lottery tax

In its argument, GGRO pointed to the annual $343m contributed to education by casinos and racinos through video lottery tax. Instead of passing HB 65, the group has urged Ohio legislators to create a sports betting market “with multiple regulated and experienced operators.”

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