The latest Ohio budget contains a big jump in the tax rate for operators of sports betting sites and explicit legal power to ban abusive gamblers from playing.
“House Bill 33 supports the priorities of the DeWine-Husted Administration by taking advantage of Ohio's Time in history to make strategic investments in our thriving economy, communities, and families in a manner that positions Ohio for continued success in the future,” a press release noted.
Tax rate debate
Notably, the legislation increases the tax on Ohio sports betting operators to 20% of their revenue generated in the state, up from the current 10%. The doubling of the tax rate will pinch the profits of Buckeye State bookmakers, which have thus far generated more than $507.1 million in taxable revenue since launching in January. At a 10% rate, that means the state is owed around $50 million.
How operators will respond to the tax hike remains to be seen. However, Ohio is bumping its tax rate from the lower end of the spectrum to somewhere closer to the average among states with legal sports betting. Bloomberg Tax reported in February that the statewide average tax rate was 19%.
But Ohio’s Midwestern neck of the woods tends to have lower rates for wagering receipts. In Illinois, for instance, the tax rate for online sports betting revenue is 15%, in nearby Michigan it is 9.65%, and in Indiana it is 9.5%. Pennsylvania, meanwhile, imposes a 36% tax rate for sports betting revenue.
An executive decision
Despite all this, the tax hike was proposed by DeWine earlier this year in response to alleged bad behavior by bettors and bookmakers, such as several marketing missteps by operators and concern about angry gamblers threatening college athletes. A spokesperson told Covers in February that the governor’s proposed budget “included a package of reforms to encourage a marketplace where the rules and the spirit of the law are better followed.”
To that end, DeWine suggested authorizing the Ohio Casino Control Commission to strip operators of their ability to offer free bets and other promotional credits as a penalty and to make “betting-related threats” against athletes a crime. The state’s budget went through a few edits, but the latter suggestion was ultimately kept in the final product (the promo-related penalty was not).
The executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission suggested earlier this year that the regulator could ban bettors from gambling over threatening behavior. That said, the new budget law makes explicit that anyone who “threatens violence or harm against any person who is involved in the sporting event, where the threat is related to sports gaming,” could be banned from play.