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By Steve Norton

CEO, Norton Management

Ohio Sports Betting Proposal Limited to Brick-and-Mortar Books

My comment:

Well done!

I applaud Ohio for avoiding the temptation to add mobile gaming, casino games, and sports betting, from their recent bill. The inability to bet from home or work will definitely help in preventing an otherwise inevitable increase in compulsive gambling. But restricting most of the population only to place their sports bets at the 4 casinos and 7 racetracks will still leave many state residents preferring to continue their use of illegal offshore betting sites on smartphones or computers that produce no taxes, jobs or revenue to the state of Ohio or its legal gaming establishments.

A compromise that I prefer, would be to approve sports betting lounges, similar to those in the United Kingdom, with a small number of Video Gaming Terminals, food and beverage service, with superior video screens to follow all sporting events, then in progress.

These would be restricted to persons over 21 years of age, offer betting kiosks and prominent displays of the odds on currently available bets. And I suggest these sports betting lounges be operated by Ohio's existing 11 casinos or racetracks and limited only to communities that are more than 25 or 30 miles from a casino or racetrack, that is offering live sports betting.

These lounges, with a much superior viewing and betting experience than watching at home, along with the fact that they are paying taxes and providing employment to Ohio residents, should help to offset the convenience factor of the illegal offshore sites that are available at home or work. The state should also establish fines for residents playing illegally on offshore sites and take suitable legal action against the sites themselves.

I am not proposing a situation, like Illinois, where many of the 6,800 businesses offering video gaming have added the sale of liquor just to qualify for 5 gaming terminals; and with over 30,000 machines, these mini slot casinos have cut visitations to the 9 original riverboat casinos by over 50% and their casino taxes by over $525 million (63%) - comparing 2017 with 2007.

But for my suggested limited number of Ohio sports betting locations, I propose they should have 10 to 25 slot machines or VGT's, to provide a gaming activity when no sporting events are taking place. Ohio gaming companies would actually see their revenues increase, as they should be the operators of these sports parlors. And the addition of sports betting, and more convenient machine locations to much of the population, would increase statewide slot win and taxes, add taxes on food and beverage sales, plus add new taxable revenue from sports betting.

These parlors, where I guess the state could justify 50 to 100 locations, would be equivalent to a gaming machine capacity which would be like adding one new casino. These sports betting lounges would provide large video walls or booths to watch current games, but also provide games that some customers missed, or were not broadcast locally.

Ohio has nearly 12 million residents, with just over 50% living in the 3 largest metropolitan cities, but even in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, there are some of the metro population that are 30 minutes or more from an existing casino or racetrack and could be an appropriate location for sports betting lounges.

This proposal helps solve the compulsive gambling issue raised by the convenience factor of gaming at home or work, provides real competition to illegal overseas gaming sites, increases state and local gaming taxes, and could provide a thousand or more jobs for residents of Ohio's smaller communities. And all while benefiting, not harming, existing gaming establishments like Illinois has done.