Ohio Lawmaker Jay Edwards Launching Gaming Study Commission Site So Public Can Monitor Progress

Ohioans interested in any and all things legal gambling will soon be able to monitor state lawmakers’ progress on a gaming study commission site. The next Study Commission on the Future of Gaming in Ohio meeting is on March 19 and the new site is expected to be live before then.

At the previous gathering on Feb. 20, called to discuss real-money online casino gambling, a commission co-chairman announced he was creating the site. On March 14, state Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, told Bonus the gaming study commission site would be live before the body’s next meeting.

Team Edwards emailed Bonus the following on March 14:

I am in the process of uploading the testimony from the last meeting so everyone can view it. The site will be ready before the next committee. We will also have a live stream.

A live stream is important because the gaming study commission hasn’t been visible to the public other than in-person attendees.

On Feb. 20, the day the commission heard testimony about real-money online casinos, a representative of the entity that live streams legislative meetings told Bonus the legislature hadn’t requested the stream.

However, the gaming study commission is required to report its findings to the Ohio General Assembly by June 30. Then, the 11-member commission will disband.

Meanwhile, the Feb. 20 discussions of iGaming and the Feb. 22 talks about launching an online lottery were only seen by physical audience members. That happened in a state where online sportsbooks launched on Jan. 1, 2023. Since then, Ohio’s seen more than $1 billion in gross gaming revenue (GGR), according to Legal Sports Report.

Online gambling operators were taxed at 10% from Jan. 1 to July 1 before the tax rate doubled to 20% at Gov. Mike DeWine’s behest.

Bonus and LSR are Catena Media publications.

Gaming Study Commission Site’s First Meetings

The next commission meeting won’t be about real-money online casinos. The March 19 topics are racinos and charitable gambling.

The next day, March 20, is about sports betting and daily fantasy sports (DFS).

Ohio is far from the only state reexamining DFS regulation. LSR reports that Colorado is the latest state to examine its DFS laws.

Ohio’s gaming study commission may also hold a final meeting in April.

iGaming Meeting Illustrates Previous Testimony Types

Gaming study commission site visitors who want to know what kind of testimony they’ll see once Edwards launches the new URL can learn from recent history.

On Feb. 20, the commission heard from the top state gaming regulator. Matthew T. Schuler, executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC), talked about Ohio retail casinos and skill gaming.

His testimony noted that the OCCC regulates Ohio’s commercial casinos and sports betting. It also pursues illegal gambling activities, which is how he characterizes skill games.

OCCC slides show Ohio’s four biggest retail casinos generated more than $1 billion in GGR in 2023.

Also, the following land-based casinos paid nearly $335 million in taxes that year at a 33% rate:

  • Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati
  • Hollywood Casino Columbus
  • Hollywood Casino Toledo
  • Jack Cleveland Casino

All of those casinos either own or partner with a mobile sportsbook in Ohio. Also, they own real-money online casinos in legal jurisdictions.

In 2022, Ohio’s 11 retail casinos contributed $2.33 billion in GGR, according to the gaming trade group American Gaming Association (AGA). That’s the AGA’s most recent data.

Responsible gaming

On the neutral end regarding iGaming legalization, Derek Longmeier, executive director of Problem Gambling Network of Ohio (PGNO), testified:

Due to the unprecedented access to gambling and the resulting increase in both those experiencing gambling harm as well as those seeking support, we request that exploration of future gaming expansion include presentations from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, gambling treatment providers, as well as those with a gambling disorder in long-term recovery.

Legal gambling expansion advocates

The remaining five documents sent to Bonus by Team Edwards after the Feb. 20 meeting show lobbying in favor of legalizing iGaming in Ohio.

The speakers emphasized that Ohioans who play online casino games online are doing so on illegal offshore sites right now.

Legal gambling expansion would bring tax revenue into Ohio coffers and help problem gambling counselors better reach Ohioans suffering from gambling harms or addiction.

Online gambling trade group iDevelopment and Economic Association (iDEA Growth) submitted testimony asserting that Ohio can gain $255 million in annual tax revenue based on a 20% tax rate.

That’s the current tax rate on mobile sports betting. Often, state lawmakers enact online casino and poker laws that tax iGaming operators at a higher rate.

Other testimony showed Ohio may be able to generate more tax dollars from legal online casino gambling.

Sports Betting Alliance (SBA) representative spoke on behalf of the alliance’s operator members:

Slide 8 of the SBA testimony shows:

Ohio could generate between $205 million to $410 million per year in NEW tax revenue from legalized iGaming.

American Gaming Association’s 2022 study estimates Ohio’s illegal iGaming market equates to $621 million per year in GGR.

Ryan Soultz, vice president of governmental affairs for Boyd Gaming Corporation, pointed out:

A quick Google search for ‘Ohio online casino’ produces a list with Bovada Online Casino at the top.

Bovada is an illegal online casino.

Charmaine Hogan, head of regulatory affairs at gambling tech provider Playtech (Playtech PLC 551,00 +1,66%), explained to the commission how legal online gambling operators differ.

The London address for the Isle of Man-based company’s representative was evident in Hogan’s written testimony:

Offering a legal sector will mean players can play with local licensed and verified gambling companies. In addition, players will be kept safe by the regulatory framework designed by local regulatory authorities. In an illegal offshore environment player habits are hidden from authorities.

Legal online casino operator Caesars Entertainment (Caesars Entertainment 36,78 +0,96%) testified. Caesars Palace Online Casino is one of its apps accepting bets in other jurisdictions.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a Caesars representative suggested in the operator’s Specific Considerations for State Policymakers that future Ohio iGaming licenses be reserved for “existing brick-and-mortar operators.” Caesars owns Eldorado Gaming Scioto Downs in Columbus.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is Lead Writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She specializes in breaking news, legislative coverage, and gambling marketing strategy overviews. To reach Heather with a news tip, email [email protected].
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