Ohioans Can Watch Live-Streaming Online Casino, iLottery, Other Gambling Proposal Testimony

Ohioans interested in learning what their lawmakers and interested stakeholders think of legalizing online casinos can find what they need on new OhioHouse.gov pages. While the commission was supposed to have a dedicated site, these three pages are solely devoted to the Study Commission on the Future of Gaming in Ohio.

Clicking on the Committees tab and scrolling to the bottom of that page, Ohioans will discover an icon for the commission under Special Committees.

There, Buckeyes will see the following tabs:

  • Members
  • Meetings
  • Video 

So far, the pages hold testimony and videos from the March 19 and March 20 study commission meetings. Members are the study commission leaders.

Ohioans could see the March 19 meeting live-streamed on the site, the office of a study commission co-chairman told Bonus on March 22. However, the aide in the office of state Sen. Nathan H. Manning, R-North Ridgeville, told Bonus the written testimony wasn’t completely uploaded onto the pages until March 20.

While the pages aren’t precisely the user-friendly dedicated URL consumers assumed they’d see when they heard about the new site launch, they do contain the necessary information. That means Ohioans no longer have to hike to the Ohio Statehouse to attend in-person meetings, as they did for the study commission’s two February meetings.

During the first gathering, on Feb. 20, the study commission’s sole topic was iGaming. That’s when state Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, announced that he would launch a study commission testimony site. He and Manning are co-chairmen of the study commission.

During that Feb. 20 meeting, most speakers favored legalizing online casinos. That appears to have changed in subsequent meetings, with recorded testimony opposing iGaming legalization.

Meanwhile, Nicholas J. Boggess, the legislative aide to Edwards, told Bonus on March 21 that the final study commission gathering will be held on April 11.

Finally, the study commission will create a summary by June 30 for the Ohio General Assembly and disband.

Study Commission Testimony Tangents

While the group’s name is the Study Commission on the Future of Gaming in Ohio, testimony tends to range from gambling’s past to its present before talking about the future.

Existing forms of gambling, such as retail casinos and the Ohio Lottery, are prominent.

For instance, while the topics for the March 19 were racinos and charitable gambling, Michelle B. Gillcrist added her thoughts about iGaming and iLottery. The director of the Ohio Lottery Commission was in favor of Ohio legalizing iLottery but asked for further study of iGaming.

In true Ohio fashion, she referred to the state’s gaming regulator as “Oh, Triple-C.” [Author’s note: I grew up in Ohio and it’s possible to spot any Ohioan anywhere by calling out “Oh-H!” while forming the letters with your arms. Then you wait to hear and see the response of “I-Oh!”]

Speaking of tangents, Gillcrist wasn’t alone. The executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) testified about retail casinos and unregulated skill game machines on Feb. 20. The stated topic of the meeting: Ohio iGaming.

Lottery Opposition to Online Casino Legalization

In other states that are considering online casino legalization, the primary opponents are labor unions for land-based casino workers. They contend that online casino and poker sites will cannibalize revenue and, by extension, result in retail casino layoffs.

Usually, lottery representatives are in favor of or neutral to iGaming legalization efforts. The former is most often true because the lotteries are the state gaming regulators. For instance, the Delaware Lottery provides links to the iGaming sites.

However, in Ohio’s case, Gillcrist believes legalizing online casinos will take money from lottery ticket sales. She added that Ohio lawmakers should also legalize online lottery ticket sales through the Ohio Lottery, which has the logo “OH!”

Coincidentally, she made the same claim about iLottery ticket buyers that online gambling advocates make about iGaming bettors. Gillcrist said iLottery wouldn’t cannibalize retail lottery ticket sales because online audiences are a different segment of society. Online gambling advocates say the same thing about iGaming vs. land-based casino gamblers.

Gillcrist’s Case for iLottery Introduction

Gillcrist told the study commission on March 19:

Should Ohio’s legislators and policymakers decide to move forward with iLottery, the Ohio Lottery would continue its track record of supporting its retail base, as the retailers are integral to our success. As data in other states show, iLottery brings in a new player. In fact, traditional lottery game sales have grown — and often grown at a faster rate — in brick-and-mortar stores after iLottery was launched. Research shows that iLottery allows lotteries to attract new players and enables lotteries to offer better cross-promotions that drive players into brick-and-mortar retailers too. This digital platform reaches consumers where they are and complements physical stores. This omnichannel approach allows lotteries to support and grow retail sales and meet the evolving needs of today’s consumer.

One such example of this is Michigan which launched their iLottery platform back in 2015. Just looking at the past six years it shows that Michigan’s traditional lottery in-store sales have grown 37%. Additionally, looking at Michigan’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report for their fiscal year 2021, they show that iLottery topped $240 million in net win for their state. Conversely, that figure dropped to $183 million in 2023 following the first two years of mobile sports betting and online casinos/iGaming in Michigan. These data points show that iLottery did not dent retail sales. However, the introduction of sports betting and online casinos/iGaming did impact iLottery sales.

So, Gillcrist seems to be saying that the as-yet unintroduced iLottery would be cannibalized by the not-yet-approved online casino sites.

However, Ohio online sportsbooks are legal and accept bets. Online sports betting launched on Jan. 1, 2023. Tax revenue from them totals more than $1 billion in gross gaming revenue (GGR), according to Legal Sports Report. Bonus and LSR are Catena Media publications.

To reach that total, sportsbooks paid a 10% tax rate from Jan. 1 to July 1 before the tax rate doubled to 20%.

On Feb. 20, an online gambling trade group iDevelopment and Economic Association (iDEA Growth) representative told the Study Commission on the Future of Gaming in Ohio that legal iGaming could yield $255 million in annual tax revenue. That’s at a 20% tax rate, like sports betting.

However, many states that have legal online casinos create higher tax rates for iGaming.

Meanwhile, Ohio’s lawmakers haven’t yet proposed online casino legalization. So, the tax rate discussion may have to wait.

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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