A coalition of bowling alleys, bars and other businesses that sell lottery games, and mayors is pushing back and rejecting any plan to allow Ohio’s four casinos to control sports gambling in the state. This comes as a proposal on sports gambling is set to come out of the Senate soon.
The group said sports gambling should be regulated by the Ohio Lottery Commission, with betting allowed through lottery terminals such as Keno machines.
“We’re not against the casinos," said Greg Beswick with the Ohio Fair Gaming Coalition. "We believe that they should have access to this, but we also believe that everyone who participates in providing lottery products should have that opportunity.”
Beswick said there are about 10,000 small businesses in Ohio that serve as lottery vendors.
David Corey with the Bowling Centers Association of Ohio said small businesses have been left out as table games and slot machines at casinos and horseracing and video slots at racinos, which raked in a record $1.9 billion statewide in 2019.
“The big boys don’t want us to ever have a piece of the pie, let alone the very, very small piece that we are suggesting today," Corey said.
Casinos have testified that nearly all sports betting will likely be done on mobile devices. But Corey says his group, which includes businesses badly hurt in the pandemic, wants a share of that 5% that are expected will gamble in person. Corey said the goal is to capture residual spending on food, beverages and other types of entertainment while gamblers are on site.
Mayors including David Berger of Lima are also part of the group. Berger said every community in the state could benefit from what allowing lottery retailers to offer sports gambling, which he called an "even handed and fair" approach.
The group that sued the state over the way it pays for public education also supports the lottery regulating sports gambling. Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding said it would bring in resources to fully fund the state's K-12 schools.
The Ohio Grocers Association has also testified in favor of the Lottery Commission controlling sports betting, and universities have asked to be excluded, as they did in testimony on bills in the last session of the General Assembly.
A bill is expected soon from the Senate's Select Committee on Gaming, chaired by longtime lawmaker Kirk Schuring (R-Canton).