On Tuesday, two opposition groups from Ohio argued against the introduction of sports betting in the state as local lawmakers are preparing to resume their discussions on the matter. The groups argue the legislation approved by the Ohio Senate earlier this summer targets local minorities and underage individuals. During a press conference on Tuesday, Mr. Les Bernal from the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation warned the commercialization of sports wagering and remote gaming is against the public interest.
Mr. Bernal likened commercialized gaming to a form of consumer financial fraud, claiming it fools people into believing they could win on games that are inherently designed to cheat them out of their money. The Executive Director of the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation warned the introduction of sports betting might prove harmful to children from the Buckeye State.
Mr. Bernal argues the new legislation does not have any provisions on protecting the local youth from gambling advertising in the way that Ohio laws safeguard them from tobacco ads. His concerns are backed by figures released by Nielsen. The market measurement and data firm reported that gambling operators have poured approximately $154 million on local advertising in the first quarter of the year alone. By contrast, their advertising spend in 2019 stood at a meager $10.7 million.
Bernal insists that Ohio lawmakers must take on the responsibility to safeguard minors from being targeted by the gambling industry. Frequent exposure to betting ads, Bernal says, could desensitize youngsters, making them less aware of the dangers associated with commercialized gambling. In turn, this could increase the likelihood of young people developing a gambling addiction at a later stage in life.
Some Fear Sports Betting Could Cause a Drop in OLC Proceeds
Under the provisions of the new legislation, some of the proceeds from sports wagering will go toward funding K-12 education. Mr. Bernal called this idea a “budget gimmick” as the sports betting industry would be regulated by the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) rather than the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC). The latter is required to use any lottery proceeds to support the Ohio education system.
Tom Roberts of the Ohio NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) also expressed his view on the sports betting bill. Mr. Roberts, who was previously a state senator, said he is willing to embrace the new legislation but only if the OLC regulates the sports betting industry.
If the bill passes as it currently is, legal sports betting could lead to a drop in the amount of money going into the Ohio lottery. Roberts is also concerned the bill could prove harmful to low-to-middle income families in the state, especially those of African American origin. Residents of the Buckeye State already lose $3 million per year to local lotteries, regional casinos, and video gaming terminals, Mr. Roberts stressed.
The Ohio Senate okayed Senate Bill 176 in June. The legislation could allow locals to bet online or at designated sports arenas, and select bars and restaurants. Under its provisions, Ohio would pocket 10% in taxes from the sports betting operators’ net revenue. Most of these tax proceeds would go toward funding the local K-12 education, while the remainder would be used for problem gambling services. The Ohio House is expected to hear Senate Bill 176 this fall.