Yes Senator Bill Coley gets its way, Ohio could become the last US state to sell lottery tickets online. He would like to add a provision to this effect to a bill on sports betting which is currently making its way through the Senate.
Bill 194, the state’s most promising attempt to legalize sports betting to date, passed its branch of the legislature in May. Since then, some work has been done to reconcile it with that of last year. Senate bill, which went to committee and no further. Now, with just three months out of the year – and Ohio’s legislative session – it’s time for more concrete movement.
Senator Coley chairs the Senate Committee on Government Oversight and Reform and hope that will be the next stop of the bill. If it is referred to another committee, however, it will move the online lottery modification on the floor later.
Online raffle ticket sales are generally not controversial. Many states, like new York, sell raffle tickets online by offering subscriptions, bypassing the need for special law. However, a full online lottery includes what is called instants, which offers payouts similar to scratch tickets, but with interactive gameplay that can be more like a slot machine.
If Ohio adopted a full set of online options, including such instant games, it would become the eighth state to do so. This is a recent phenomenon in the United States, with two states only joining the list this year: Virginia and Rhode Island. The first was Georgia, in 2012.
âYou can buy a car on a cell phone in Ohio but not a lottery ticket,â Coley said PlayOhio Last week. âWe have to look at this. I want to make sure that, if we make a bill legalized, the offers under the bill are maximized to everyone’s satisfaction. “
Online lottery clause could be rejected by the House
Opinions vary on the likelihood of the bill becoming law and how the addition of online lottery provisions would affect that. Understandably, Senator Coley is optimistic, as is the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, Senator John Eklund.
Generally speaking, online lotteries are one of the easiest forms of gambling to legalize and overtake online casinos for this reason. In many cases, this is as simple as adding the words âincluding Internet salesâ to the section of the legal code detailing the responsibilities of the lottery board.
Indeed, Sens. Eklund and Coley regard the authorization as a mere formality. By their interpretation of the current law, the Lotteries Commission could unilaterally decide to start selling tickets online, or even to offer sports betting.
As recently as last year, the commission was planning to do just that. Ultimately, however, he chose to wait for explicit guidance from lawmakers rather than risk a legal battle.
However, there is a skill issue involved now. The original sponsor of the bill in the House, Representative Dave Greenspan, do not think it is appropriate to include provisions on lotteries in the bill now that sports betting would be regulated by the Casino Control Commission (CCC).
Ironically, this is a change that has taken place in the Senate. Greenspan’s version of the bill gave that power to the Lottery Commission. Having agreed to let the CCC regulate instead, he would prefer to keep the lottery out of that.
Still a long way to go for the HB 194
Even if the House and Senate reach agreement on the inclusion of iLottery, there is no guarantee that the bill will pass. Eklund himself recognizes that there is a lot of work to do. In particular, he sees many of the details of the bill as a starting point for discussion rather than a take it or leave it behind.
“[The details] are all subject to conversations with other senators, state officials and other interested parties, âsaid Eklund LegalSportsReport earlier this month. âTo one degree or another, all of these things are placeholders. “
This includes decisions as fundamental as the tax rate – currently set at 8% – license fees and the number of skins per operator. It is on this latter front that the current version of the bill is most problematic. It specifies three skins per license, which is quite normal, but contains the unusual provision that all three must be used.
The intention, presumably, is to ensure that casinos do not abuse their position to push competitors out of the market. However, this does mean that some eligible licensees could find themselves shut out of the market due to their inability to find enough brands to partner with.
There is enough interest in Ohio sports betting that these details would be worked out if time was not a factor. However, Eklund is planning a short run just to get a committee hearing on the bill ahead of the November election. That would only leave one month for a floor vote before the legislative session ends. Worse yet, there are bound to be plenty of political distractions at this time.
Peer pressure is strong for Ohio
On the bright side, Ohio lawmakers are likely feeling pressure from neighboring states to expand the game. Buckeye State shares borders with five others. All are ahead of at least some forms of play:
Michigan and Pennsylvania have gone mad, having legalized online casinos, poker, sports betting, and iLotteries. West Virginia has it all minus the online lottery. Indiana has given the example of the tax revenue that sports betting can generate, even in a conservative-leaning state. Finally, Kentucky has an online lottery and has made several attempts at online sports betting and poker.
The neighbor effect is powerful, as residents often cross state borders to gamble. Once a given type of gambling is available nearby, there is less incentive to ban it and more to legalize it.
Ohio cannot prevent its citizens from traveling to gamble. More importantly, it does not collect any tax revenue when they do. Whether or not HB 194 passes this year, it’s only a matter of time before Ohio lawmakers decide to give residents these options at home, to prevent their gambling dollars from leaving the state. .
Over time, this could apply as much to online casinos and online poker as it does to sports betting and iLottery. These verticals are not to be taken into consideration this year. However, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have already shown how lucrative they can be. Additionally, this year has demonstrated their importance when an external event like COVID-19 threatens land play.
In the meantime, setting up an online lottery could be a useful first step. After all, states that have done so are generally more likely to adopt further expansion in subsequent years.