No one ever suggested getting legal sports betting off the ground in Ohio would be an easy process.
Members of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, Ohio Lottery Commission and state legislators – all actively involved in launching retail and mobile sportsbooks in the Buckeye State – would agree that it’s not as simple as playing a game of checkers.
The commission has checked plenty of tasks off its to-do list to have sports betting ready to launch on the scheduled universal start date of Jan. 1, 2023. Yet with just over four months remaining on the commission’s sports gaming implementation timeline, plenty still needs to be completed before anyone will finally be able to place a sports wager in the Buckeye State.
Right from the outset, it was understood that any unforeseen issues or concerns that might require the commission to alter its timeline could potentially have an impact on sports betting being operational by the universal start date. One concern that has the potential for delaying the start date is the rule requiring establishments with Type C sports betting licenses to pay any winners no matter how large the amount of the payout. This rule has the potential to lead to a small business being on the hook for more money than it actually has on site. The rule also limits sports bettors to collecting their winnings only from the place where they placed the wager.
These concerns have been brought to the attention of the commission by some stakeholders seeking a rewrite of the rules. The Ohio Grocers Association and Ohio’s branch of the National Federation of Independent Business have been among those groups to express their disapproval of the rules as originally written.
“I’m fearful that a lot of our members, our small businesses, are going to say, after they understand the rules, ‘This is too much of a risk for me to take on. This is too much of a liability for me to take on,’” National Federation of Independent Business’ Chris Ferruso told The Marietta Times.
Ohio Grocers Association President Kristin Mullins said her organization has been in regular communication with the commission about tweaking rules it’s most concerned with — in particular, requirements that limit sports bettors to collecting payouts only from the place where they made the winning wager.
“We’ve been working on it daily,” Mullins said. “There’s been constant contact. We do have that January 1 deadline. That’s kind of where we are.”
Mullins added that perhaps the commission should also consider putting a cap on the amount that an establishment can pay out for a winning sports wager ticket, similar to the rules that place a cap on the amount that establishments can pay out for a daily lottery winning ticket. Winning daily lottery tickets with payouts that exceed the designated cap amount must be collected at a claim center.
“Right now, there’s no certain dollar amount,” Mullins said. “I think there needs to be a limit like the regular lottery.”
Talks prove productive, but hurdles remain
Interactions between stakeholders and the commission have apparently been productive enough that the two sides are actively working on a rule change. The lottery commission has tweaked Rule 3-8-02, recognized as the prize payment rule, and the adjustment is currently being reviewed by the Common Sense Initiative.
The change would drop a requirement that sports bettors cash their winning tickets at the site of purchase. It would instead give sports bettors the option of cashing their winners at any of approximately 600 grocery stores that are currently Ohio lottery outlets.
“It was always our intent to offer as many options as possible for customers to cash their sports gaming prizes, and the change to the prize payment rule simply clarifies that intent to expressly allow non-host locations (all lottery retailers including grocery stores) to cash sports gaming prizes if they choose to do so,” Ohio Lottery Commission Communications Director Danielle Frizzi-Babb told OH Bets.
Should the revised rule eventually receive final approval, it would be welcome news to Ohio’s grocers.
“We want to make it where all of our grocers are able to cash out winning tickets,” Mullins said.
Rule 3-8-02 has to clear several more stages before it can be implemented. Whether or not this creates a delay in the sports gaming timeline remains to be seen.
Yet for some grocers, thoughts of pushing back the start date is less a concern than having a sports betting framework in place that best meets the needs of stakeholders.
“We are pleased that the lottery commission is willing to hear our concerns,” Mullins said. “No one wants to delay the rollout, but we want to make sure the system is in place and works.”