Association leader says convenience retailers are well-equipped to offer limited sports betting options.
In side-by-side editorials published this week in the Columbus Dispatch, OPMCA President and CEO Jennifer Rhoads and Ohio Senator John Eklund made opposing cases for the best path forward for sports wagering in Ohio. At issue in the dueling op-eds are two bills currently under consideration in the Ohio General Assembly—Senate Bill 111, and House Bill 194. The Senate proposal would place oversight of sports wagering under the auspices of the state’s casino commission and would limit betting exclusively to casino and racino locations, as well as some veteran and fraternal halls. The House bill would charge the Ohio Lottery Commission with administering sports wagering in the state, and would open the opportunity to offer limited betting programs in Ohio’s nearly 6,000 retail convenience stores.
Rhoads, the petroleum and convenience industry’s top advocate in Ohio, called the lottery the “best path forward,” noting that the commission has decades of experience managing a program that has generated $650 million in funding for the state’s schools in the past five years. What’s more, Rhoads added, the retail convenience industry is well-prepared to monitor and verify the age of customers interested in placing sports wagers.
“Convenience retailers must pass background checks and complete training specifically designed to prevent sales of age-restricted products to minors and protect against youth access,” Rhoads said. “They are eager and already well-equipped to offer limited sports betting options.
In his counterpoint, Senator Eklund, sponsor of the Senate bill, argued that casinos are a better fit for sports gaming. “Gaming agents (peace officers) already staff casino operations 24-7 to maintain their integrity. Similar protections would be impractical in regular retail stores,” Eklund said. “Sports wagering simply does not belong in every convenience store and gas station in Ohio.”
For now, there is no clear winner, as debate continues in both Chambers of the legislature. Changes to the House proposal that would expand the bill to allow wagering from mobile devices stalled in committee. See this week's related news story for more details.
OPMCA remains actively engaged with lawmakers as both sports wagering proposals make their way through the Statehouse.
Read the side-by-side editorials from Rhoads and Eklund in detail here.