Won't Somebody Think of the Casinos?
You might think sports betting is around the corner in Ohio. Think again.
Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have all figured out how to regulate sports betting. This remains problematic in Ohio because for some reason our legislative hobgoblins can’t figure out which group of filthy rich people get to profit on idiots like me playing $20 six-team parlays every weekend.
There was a rare glimmer of hope last week when the State Senate voted 30-2 to pass Senate Bill 176, which would legalize sports gambling by allowing the Ohio Casino Commission to prioritize professional sports teams while awarding zero to three brick-and-mortar licenses per county based on population.
Naturally this has casinos crying foul.
God forgive me, but I’m about to agree with the bill’s co-author, Senator Niraj Antani (R-Sewer).
“The sports teams are longstanding Ohio businesses that have been around for decades, that have contributed greatly to the Ohio economy, have created tons of jobs, have huge economic impact,” he said. “The casinos ran a constitutional amendment, came in with out-of-state money, forced their way into the state of Ohio. So, yes, there’s a preference in the bill for the businesses that operate in the free market. The casinos forced their way, they bought their way through a ballot initiative in 2009.”
Voting for casinos was one of the first couple of votes I casted in my life, and I don’t regret it. But god damn, casinos are some of the most depressing places in the world.
I remember when Columbus forced its casino to the outskirts of the West Side. It was billed as something that would “revitalize the area.” All that’s out there is a strip of bars and a couple of restaurants across the street in an otherwise depressing and dilapidated area that includes convoys of busses loaded with seniors ready to dump their most recent Social Security check into a slot machine.
Granted, a depressing hellscape fueled by bilking fools in a get-rich-quick scheme could have fit the Cleveland Browns before they decided to get good at football… but why shouldn’t sports teams be given priority to profit on people gambling on their product? They have much deeper connections to the state than whatever corporations run the casinos.
Unfortunately this is Ohio, and casinos have the bankroll to try to block this legislative by “lobbying” (read: bribing) members of the Ohio House.
“We were shocked and dismayed to see the latest changes to the bill in the Senate,” Eric Schippers, the senior vice president for public affairs for Penn National Gaming, told Sports Handle in an emailed statement. “The Senate is inexplicably handicapping this for the teams, the PGA, and the promoter of a stock car race to get retail sports betting licenses, when the fact is having a retail sportsbook in the casinos/racinos will help boost incremental revenues from the higher taxed slot machines by as much as 25% based on our experience in other states.
Ah yes, a story as old as Ohio politics: A monied industry loses in one legislative chamber so they take their football to the other chamber with no other goal than to block a current rendition of legislation until they can be included in the new windfall.
Meanwhile, the loser is the Average Joe who simply wants to place a sports bet outside of a criminal organization… as well as the state for losing out on the millions of dollars this legislation is sure to produce.
The Supreme Court opened the door for legalized sports betting in May 2018, and somehow Ohio is nowhere close to legalizing it within our borders. Ironically, similar stalling tactics are what forced the gaming industry to go directly to the people with a ballot initiative to legalize casinos in 2009.
At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what happens with sports gambling, as it’s becoming clear our legislators don’t have the mettle to make a tough decision.
THOSE WMDs. People “just wanted to keep partying:” Drug trafficking during the pandemic… Most Americans can be fired at any time for no reason, but a New York law could change that… Gerald Stratford knows how to garden… She fell nearly two miles and walked away… Cheat day with Christopher Meloni.