The Ohio Grocers Association wants in on the Ohio sports betting market.

  • The Ohio Legislature continues to hear testimony about the benefits that a legal sports betting market would bring to the state.
  • Oddly enough, grocery stores in Ohio have come forward to request inclusion in any legislation for sports wagering to be eligible to offer the activity to their customers.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Starting from scratch, as Representative Brigid Kelly told LegalSportsBetting earlier this month, the Ohio Senate Select Committee heard testimony on Wednesday about a potential legal sports wagering industry in Ohio. The biggest news from the testimony is that grocers now want in on the market.

Ohio was very close to legalizing sports gaming in the state during the 2020 session only to take it down to the wire where they would eventually run out of time. Now a committee known as the Senate Select Committee has been tasked with taking over the discussions for market legalization in 2021.

What Occurred During The Third Meeting For Ohio Sports Wagering?

Plenty of testimony was heard, most if not all of which was in favor of legal sports betting in the Buckeye State. Though the most surprising part of the hearing came from the Ohio Grocers Association (OGA). It turns out that grocery stores in the state would like to be able to offer wagering on sports at their locations.

In the same way that they sell lottery tickets to customers, gambling on sporting events would happen in the same fashion.

“We are not here today to advocate for opening a sportsbook in each grocery store or having tables set up through our aisles, but we’re asking you to make us part of the sports gaming system,” said Joe Ewig, representing the OGA, at the hearing Wednesday. “What we envision how this would function within a grocery store would be very much how you see a grocery store operating today, through the existing infrastructure, the systems we have in place through the lottery. We envision this as an enhanced opportunity through those existing machines that we operate.”

This concept is not new in the nation as states have embraced lottery retailers being able to provide sports betting slips for gamblers. While this idea makes sense, it is also something that causes hesitation for lawmakers because of the number of people that could walk into a grocery store and walk out having placed multiple bets on games.

However, the argument brought up during the hearing of someone walking into their local grocery store with millions of dollars to put into a lottery terminal seems outlandish as it’s unlikely anyone has the patience to sit at a kiosk and insert millions in dollars. Outside of that argument, there is the argument that rules and regulations would be in place where this example may not be possible when all is said and done.

Besides the talk of grocery stores, representatives from sportsbook operators like FanDuel came forward to offer their opinions on a legal Ohio sports gaming industry. Representatives insisted that any legislation up for consideration during the 2021 session include collegiate sports betting.

Proponents argue that Ohio has a huge fan base for college sports and if the consumer does not find state-sanctioned sportsbooks offering wagers on these events, they will continue to find them elsewhere as they have been doing through offshore mobile sportsbooks, allowing for no profit to the Buckeye State. This would make the legalization of sports betting moot if Ohio is unable to capitalize on some of the bigger parts of the industry like their college sports fanbase.

What’s Next For Ohio?

Ohio is seemingly ready for a legal sports wagering industry. The 2020 session brought them an almost perfect bill that died due to lack of time. It is now being said that the market should follow a structure like that of the highly successful New Jersey. Each land-based location should be allowed three skins for mobile operators and set a tax rate of 8%-10% on all GGR.

The people of Ohio are avid sports bettors, plain and simple. They continue to find ways to wager on sporting events every day. Super Bowl Sunday data reports showed that over 350,000 residents crossed state borders to use the mobile sportsbooks of neighboring states to bet on the big game. The Ohio Legislature needs to make its move on this as money continues to be left on the table each day the state goes without legal sportsbooks.

Governor Mike DeWine continues to advocate for the industry. Government officials have until the end of the year to decide on any future bills that will be filed on the subject. Until then, the Ohio Senate Select Committee will continue to hear from various people on the topic before any legislation will be heard and in the meantime, Ohioans will keep betting on sports through other outlets until the legislature decides to legalize the pastime in Ohio.

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