Position Statement on Legalized Sports Betting in Ohio
Strengthening Ohio Assets — Fair Market Access — Healthy Competition — Enhancing Fan Engagement
WHO WE ARE
We are a coalition of Ohio’s leading professional sports organizations – Ohio’s eight major league sports franchises (affiliated with the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS) and the PGA TOUR’s Memorial Tournament.
Our sports operations are ingrained in Ohio’s culture and have a worldwide reach. We provide year-round entertainment for millions of Ohioans who attend our games and follow them on television and radio, in print, and online. The organizations employ thousands of full and part time workers, foster economic development, attract visitors and tourists, host significant national and international events, support important local community causes and charities, instill civic pride, and offer a fun and energizing way for Ohio to compete on a national and international stage.
In addition to hosting pre and post season games and other special events, members of the Ohio Professional Sports Coalition play close to 570 games, home and away, each year.
States have been moving to establish legalized sports betting and set state regulations since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in May 2018 changed the landscape by permitting every state to have sports gaming. To date, 26 states (plus the District of Columbia) have legalized sports betting through legislation or by ballot issue, and 21 more have legislation currently under consideration.
The large national and international casino conglomerates moved swiftly to gain control of the sports gaming market, even though all the effort and investment required to supply the content (producing the games and competitions) are provided by the sports teams and event owners. The casino industry was ready for the Supreme Court ruling and had some early success securing sports betting monopolies in many of the first states to allow sports betting. But the trend in recently-adopted legislation (including in states such as Arizona, Virginia, Illinois, and Maryland) has been to also facilitate direct market access by in-state professional sports organizations.
Prior leaders of the Ohio General Assembly did not agree on a plan to authorize sports betting in Ohio in the wake of the federal high court ruling. But now there is an emerging consensus among state leaders that Ohio should adopt a sports betting law. A bill is expected soon and many believe the General Assembly should act by June 30, 2021, before the start of the customary summer legislative break.
Our coalition supports the adoption of legislation by June 30, 2021. Sports betting is already legal in 26 states and the District of Columbia, including our border states of Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. This puts Ohio at a disadvantage, with the state leaving millions in tax revenue on the table and sports franchises missing out on valuable fan engagement and commercial opportunities. Furthermore, Ohioans are already betting on sports—either by traveling to neighboring states where it is legal to do so, or by betting illegally via offshore platforms. To ensure appropriate integrity and consumer protections, we support legislative efforts to incentivize the transition from the illegal, unregulated market to the legal market as soon as possible.
So while Ohio may currently be behind, state leaders have a real opportunity to get it right and enact model legislation to be emulated by other states.
Getting it right means ensuring the integrity of our games and matches, creating healthy market competition, ensuring Ohio’s sports teams remain competitive with their counterparts across the nation, providing fair market access, and enhancing the fan experience online and on location.
WHAT WE SUPPORT
Fair Market Access. The sports betting market doesn’t exist without the competitions provided by our Coalition’s teams and events—we are the “sports” in sports betting. If Ohio is to establish a legal sports betting market, fair market access should be given to the entities that create the market. More specifically, we support:
MOBILE LICENSES: One license per entity
- One mobile license each for Ohio’s eight major league professional sports franchises and the PGA TOUR Memorial Tournament (9), and one mobile license for each of Ohio’s casinos and racinos (11), for a statewide total of 20.
- To ensure integrity and eliminate any real or perceived conflicts of interest, each team would sublicense its mobile license to an established online vendor, which would be subject to all applicable laws and regulations. The teams would not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the sports betting platforms.
- Limiting all entities to one mobile license ensures a level playing field, avoids over-saturation of the market, and also prevents—as is already happening—casinos from “trading” Ohio licenses to operators who don’t currently have access to the state in exchange for access to other states. The structure currently proposed by some casino operators (as many as 3 mobile licenses per facility) would result in at least one national casino company having up to 12 online licenses, more than the total number of licenses requested by all of the members of our Coalition (who, again, create the sports betting market) combined. There is no compelling reason why casino and racino operators should have more than one mobile license per facility.
RETAIL SPORTSBOOK: One sportsbook opportunity per team
- We are advocating for an opportunity for each team, and the PGA TOUR Memorial Tournament, to control one retail sportsbook at or in close proximity to the applicable sports venue. Retail sportsbooks are already in development at various pro sports venues throughout the country—specifically in Illinois, Arizona, Washington D.C., Maryland—and more are expected.
- A retail sportsbook is another opportunity to enhance the fan experience and spur economic development within our communities. It would also provide an alternative wagering venue for our fans who do not wish to visit a casino to place a wager.
Integrity & Official League Data. Ensuring the integrity of our sports is paramount to our organizations. In addition to other robust integrity protections modeled after the best practices in other states, including cooperation with sports leagues’ integrity investigation, limiting bets that present excessive risk and enabling robust information sharing, we advocate that Official League Data be used to settle certain bets, including bets placed on the final score after play begins and prop bets that are made pregame.
Regulation under the Ohio Casino Control Commission & Timeliness. We are advocating that the Ohio Casino Control Commission be the designated regulator of the legalized sports betting market in Ohio. We also believe that in order to begin the transition from the illegal market to the legal market as soon as possible, the Casino Control Commission should be authorized to begin preparing rules as soon as the bill is signed into law (no later than June 30, 2021), putting Ohio on track to gain millions of tax dollars and remain economically competitive with surrounding states as soon as possible.