Sports Betting News Roundup: Fantasy in Connecticut, real talk in Ohio

Jay Dieffenbach

Sports betting legislation in Connecticut now includes what some perceive as an attack on daily fantasy sports, and ESPN fantasy specialist Matthew Berry has a problem with it.

With reports estimating 600,000 Connecticut residents participate in fantasy sports, a bill to expand gaming in the state is drawing some curious stares.

The bill, HB 6451, passed the House by a 122-21 vote and now awaits approval from the Connecticut Senate and Gov. Ned Lamont before heading to the federal level with approval needed from the Department of Interior.

The hope is for sports betting to be up and running by the start of the NFL season in September.

The expanded gaming agreement between the state and the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes requires all fantasy sports companies to be licensed through one of the three licensees under the bill.

The Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association expressed concern in a statement.

“Legislation currently under consideration by the Connecticut General Assembly could result in the shutdown of paid fantasy sports in Connecticut for a significant period of time, possibly through the NFL season,” the statement said.

According to Peter Schoenke, president of Roto-Wire and boardmember of the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association, the bill “would knock out all the operators that are currently operating in the state and then they’d have to reapply. And the application process is kind of ambiguous so you might not be able to have fantasy sports in the state until later in the fall, after peak NFL season, or even well into 2022.

“The second problem is there might be as few as three or four licensees in the state for fantasy sports. And obviously, that just doesn’t really work. There’s a lot more companies than that.”

At the heart of the matter is a set of regulations that must be in place to operate fantasy contests — and lawmakers have until January to put those in place.

State Representative Maria Horn, the Democratic Chair of the Public Safety Committee, hopes for clarity but said, “In the interim fantasy sports remains in the murky legal territory.”

Louisiana’s voters want it, but lawmakers are slow to decide details

The sports-crazy state of Louisiana is moving toward legal sports wagering, but slowly.

As several bills addressing the infrastructure for sports gambling in the state have seen approval from lawmakers, questions about how the profits will be spent remain at issue.

“Once again, Louisiana finds itself following the lead of other states around us,” said a frustrated state Sen. Ronnie Johns. “The people have spoken on this.”

Sports betting received voter approval in 55 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes last fall.

Senate Bill 142 would provide revenues for the state general fund, while SB247 allows the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to issue 20 sports betting licenses.

Louisiana’s 16 casinos and four racetracks would have first choice to apply by Jan. 1 or within 30 days of applications becoming available, whichever is later.

The operators of video poker and fantasy sports would be next if any of the casino or track owners fail to meet the deadline.

In a report from the Washington Examiner, specifics included:

Players would have to be at least 21 years old and physically present in one of the 55 parishes to bet legally. Mobile gaming would be allowed but providers would have to use geofencing technology to ensure bets are not accepted from parishes where it isn’t legal.

Athletes, coaches and officials would not be able to wager legally on their own games. Wagers are not supposed to be accepted on a single act in a team event controlled solely by a single player.

Another bill heading for the Senate, HB 697, would institute a 10% tax on the net proceeds of an operator for on-site betting — and an 18% tax on net proceeds from mobile betting.

That bill includes having the Louisiana Lottery lend oversight on sports bets made through kiosks placed in bars and restaurants.

Pennsylvania rolls with the post-March punches

Pennsylvania sportsbooks, among the nation’s more popular and profitable, took an expected hit to their strong March numbers, falling back across the board as April numbers were revealed.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board stats reported its sportsbooks pulled in $479 million in April bets, producing $36 million in revenue after paying out winners, a hold percentage of 7.5.

The overall gaming numbers in the state set records, however, with a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story detailing those broader numbers.

In terms of sports wagering, though, Pennsylvania’s figures are consistent with other states, with the common denominator simply being a lack of high-profile sporting events on which to wager.

The men’s NCAA basketball tournament — March Madness — provided three full weeks of popular betting options.

In fact, March 2021 brought $560 million in Pennsylvania sportsbook wagers, providing $41 million in revenue.

Following the national trend, online sportsbook wagering saw more than 90 percent of the handle.

Ohio sports teams say, ‘Where’s my slice?’

As the state of Ohio trudges forward in quest of legalizing sports betting, the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Browns, the PGA and others want adjustments to the current bill, seeking to shrink the total number of online operators and improve their own landscape.

That current bill, SB 176, would bring as many as 20 Type A licenses (online sportsbooks) and 20 Type B (physical on-site betting facilities.

A mobile licensee would also be permitted to seek a Type B license.

During testimony last week at a meeting of the state Senate’s select gaming committee, Cincinnati Reds chief financial officer Doug Healy was among the pro sports team reps seeking amendments.

“Frankly, the current legislation enhances the out-of-state gaming interests’ ability to procure market access in Ohio without rewarding stakeholders who have invested billions of dollars and employed tens of thousands of Buckeyes,” Healy told the gaming committee.

Healy believes the Type A licenses should be limited to just one “skin” apiece, which would mean that there would be 20 online sports-betting brands in total that could operate in the state.

“Twenty licenses are more than adequate to address the initial demand in the marketplace, evidenced by our friends in Arizona, which recently passed very similar legislation,” Healy said. “As I stated during my March testimony, it is not our intent to run this operation, rather we would delegate the operation under this license to a qualified mobile sportsbook operator.”

In Arizona, teams such as the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks will operate on-site sports-betting facilities.

Healy also suggested official league data be used for betting.

Ted Tywang, general counsel for the Haslam Sports Group — which owns the Cleveland Browns –took issue with the SB 176 structure, spotlighting the requirement for license holders to be able to "bank" bets and the open-ended model for mobile sports betting.

“These provisions would flat-out prevent our participation based on our business structure and league rules and also create an unhealthy monopoly …” Tywang testified. “We feel strongly that there must be limits on the number of sports-betting platforms so as to avoid market saturation, consumer confusion, and an overburdened regulatory structure.”

Tywang urged that the bill be altered to allow pro teams as well as the PGA to own mobile licenses.

Among those also testifying Wednesday were representatives from the Ohio Grocers Association, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and DraftKings Inc.

The SB 176 supporters hope to see passage by the end of next month. The new legislation would not take effect until after Jan. 1, 2022.

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