Ohio Could Also Become Michigan Rival In Sports Betting

Posted on April 29, 2020

Earlier this month, a mini-controversy brewed in Toledo, Ohio, banning Michigan golfers from heading south of the states’ border for a round.

Golfing was banned by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the time, and Ohio closed three Toledo courses to Michiganders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Michigan and Ohio residents have a long-standing and sometimes bitter rivalry.

With Ohio now considering the implementation of legalized sports gambling, the feud could carry over to the sports betting market.

For Michigan sports betting revenue purposes, the hope is that any rivalry would not mirror the current state of the Michigan vs. Ohio State football series.

Ohio considering legalized sports gambling

Ohio is among the states considering sports betting legislation, which was originally proposed last year.

In a story published Saturday, Cincinnati.com reported the measure is no longer a priority during the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down much of the country.

State Rep. Brigid Kelly, a co-sponsor of one of two introduced bills, said the issue has had nine hearings in the state’s House of Representatives. The other bill is in the Ohio Senate.

Both would still have to be voted by the committee on to the full congressional body, then go through committee and full votes by the other body, then signed by Gov. Mike DeWine.

Sticking points in the competing bills

The debate over college sports and the regulatory body seem to be the biggest points of contention in the Buckeye State, according to Cincinnati.com.

All 13 Division I college athletic directors signed a letter opposing college sports betting, which is included in the House bill.

The bill would give regulatory control to the Ohio Lottery Commission, and the Senate bill gives it to the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

Kelly’s bill in the House, co-sponsored by state Rep. Dave Greenspan, includes mobile betting and in-person wagering at casinos and racinos

Looking around at Michigan’s borders

Indiana is the only of Michigan’s three bordering states that have legalized sports betting. In addition, nearby neighbors Illinois and Pennsylvania have instituted it.

Wisconsin, which borders Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, has no planned legislation this year on the matter.

Last month, ESPN.com listed Wisconsin as one of three states, joining Idaho and Utah, as the only states with no legislation introduced yet.

Meanwhile, there’s more border competition for Michigan casinos across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario.

Caesars Windsor has been open since 1994 and adopted sports betting in 2006. However, there is only parlay-style betting there, with efforts to expand to single-event betting ongoing.

Border casinos have particular intrastate interests

Casinos could have their own form of border wars down the line.

The trio of Four Winds Casino locations in southwest Michigan are already competing against northwest Indiana casinos such as Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City and the fourth Four Winds location in South Bend.

While Blue Chip has sports betting, the Michigan casinos do not. Four Winds has not announced plans to add sports betting, although it is now legal to do so.

The trio of Detroit casinos – Greektown Casino-Hotel, MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino – are about an hour’s drive from Ohio’s Hollywood Casino Toledo.

For now, Michigan holds the upper hand for potential sports bettors, as Detroit’s casinos opened retail sportsbooks in mid-March. Mobile sports betting across the state is expected to launch in early 2021, though MGM officials are among those trying to move the process along.

Regional tax comparisons could be a guide

The new sports betting rules in Tennessee are taking criticism for its unprecedented 10% hold requirement, which could deter operators from entering the market.

Ohio would likely keep an eye on those developments and also look at its borders when assessing its own tax rates.

In Indiana, the state taxes 9.5% of revenue, while Michigan clocks in at 8.4% of revenue (with another 3.25% added for Detroit city taxes).

Ohio bordering states West Virginia and Pennsylvania also have sports betting, as West Virginia taxes it at 10% and Pennsylvania at 36%.

Matt Schoch Avatar
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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