Ohio Regulators Prepared For Heavy Workload On Sports-Betting Rules

January 25, 2022
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Ohio’s top gaming regulator has said that although the state’s newly passed sports-betting legislation may be unique, the law provides a clear roadmap for operators to understand how to access the new market.

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Ohio’s top gaming regulator has said that although the state’s newly passed sports-betting legislation may be unique, the law provides a clear roadmap for operators to understand how to access the new market.

Matt Schuler, the executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC), spoke with VIXIO GamblingCompliance about the beginning of the state’s lengthy process to promulgate rules and issue licenses for sports wagering in accordance with House Bill 29 signed into law late last year.

“It is a detailed law so in terms of executing the policy decisions from the General Assembly, it’s crystal clear, we have our mission,” Schuler said.

“Within that, they ask us to promulgate quite a few rules to implement the details of this, but the boundaries are very clear and the pathways forward to promulgate those rules, we’re not reinventing the wheel here.

“Yes, we have the flexibility to make this work, but … what stakeholders see in the law is crystal clear and shouldn’t leave a lot of questions on how this is going to work, who has an opportunity for entry into the market, and what the expectations are of license applicants in order to be found suitable to participate in sports gaming,” he added.

Ohio’s rulemaking and licensing process is expected to take much of 2022, with a required start date no later than January 1, 2023 set by the statute, and a stated preference from the commission for a uniform kick-off for all participants rather than a staggered start when individual operators are ready to launch.

The law allows the commission to issue up to 25 “Type A” licenses to entities that include casinos, racinos and professional sports teams to operate mobile betting, with up to two skins for each license. Up to 40 “Type B” licenses to operate land-based wagering will also become available.

The commission must also license between two and 20 technology proprietors for limited “Type C” wagering under the control of the Ohio Lottery Commission, as well as an uncapped number of retail vendors for Type C wagering kiosks at bars and other locations.

“We were very involved, but it was an involvement that did not relate to the major policy decisions that the General Assembly was working through,” Schuler said.

“And I’m very appreciative of this; we received a great deal of outreach from both the House and Senate members to say, this is what we want to do, would you give us your feedback on this, is this the best way to approach it, mechanically will this work, do you have any suggestions to make it more efficient.”

In the early stages of the rulemaking process, Schuler said the state has looked to examples and sought feedback from several states that share elements of Ohio’s model, including New Jersey, Indiana, Colorado and Arizona, the latter of which also permits licensing of major league sports teams.

“That state that has actually done that provides a unique perspective for us because now we’re encountering that same thing and have quite a bit of sports organizations here in the state that want to move forward with it,” Schuler said.

As the state works through its process, Schuler said the biggest challenge the commission faces is the sheer volume of the workload of licensing and suitability investigations for the dozens of entities that are set to seek access to the market.

“I do believe we’ll be able to do it,” he said. “Many of the potential applicants, we’re familiar with them as we’ve been watching them in other states set up and operate, so that is a challenge, but it’s not an unfamiliar challenge.

“It’s volume; the process is largely the same, it’s just the volume.”

The commission released its first batch of rules for review by stakeholders in late December and regulators will continue to release draft rules in batches.

For entities new to the state, Schuler emphasized the commission’s commitment to problem gambling measures as something to keep at the forefront.

“Different states have different requirements and expectations and one of the things we think is important and, I think received a very positive outlook when we’ve shared this with stakeholders, we’re not a commission that believes that the problem gambling information should be hard to find or in fine print,” he said.

“If you’ve got a billboard and you’re driving by you shouldn’t have to stop to see the number,” he added. “Different companies have different cultures, different expectations, so that’s one that we really want them to partner with us on.”

Despite that emphasis, Schuler said the state expects to align with national helpline numbers and wants to make offering problem gambling information “not a burden for our operators, but easy.”

“That’s the kind of thing we want to work with them on and have received a great reception so far,” he said.

“We don’t expect to be any overbearing requirements, it’s just a priority and we want to work with them to make sure that’s something that’s woven into their offering here in Ohio,” Schuler added.

Schuler also said that the commission is already mindful of the advertising crunch that has been seen at launch in other states, but he pointed out that the law does not empower the OCCC to limit the frequency of advertising, only the content in such areas as not advertising to minors and other common-sense limitations.

“I will sit here today saying I know there will be a ton [of advertising], and there will be a ton more than there is today, but there’s already quite a bit and the first app hasn’t even turned on,” he said.

Still, Schuler pointed out that the effects of the advertising boom are not entirely negative.

“People might feel that they’re choking on it, but with each advertisement there’s going to be information, and for each application that’s downloaded there’s going to be ways of managing your account, and easy ways to, which I really like, click a button and dial the problem gaming helpline,” he said.

“There are benefits to this as well as some of the negatives that make us cringe to think about the onslaught as everyone tries to get into the state and build market share and get their customers.

“It’s a knock-down, drag-out kind of thing; ultimately it will level off. My hope is working with the commission our operators will be mindful and follow the type of guidance the [American Gaming Association] has given them, which is a reasonable place to start.

“I do believe that if they do not do that, the General Assembly would be perfectly poised to consider restrictions or give the commission the ability to impose restrictions.”

See also: Q&A - Sports Betting in Ohio

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