Opponents of sports betting bill say it will not protect consumers and worsen wealth inequalities

Opponents of the sports betting bill that the Ohio Senate approved earlier this summer said the bill failed to include proper consumer protections and risked further worsening wealth inequalities across the board. ‘Ohio.

National director of Stop Predatory Gambling Les Bernals said the marketing of sports betting and online games would not be in the public interest at a press conference on Tuesday, calling the games marketed a form of “financial fraud to consumption “unlike any other business, including those involving vices like tobacco and alcohol.

“Citizens are fooled into thinking that they can make money on games designed to make them steal… it has the lure that you could get money,” Bernal said. “Inevitably, you lose your money in the end, especially if you keep playing. Success only comes at someone else’s expense.”

Senate Bill 176, approved by the Senate in June, would create three separate sports betting licenses, allowing Ohioans to place bets online, in professional sports arenas and in a few select bars and restaurants. Under the plan, sports betting would be overseen by the Ohio Casino Control Commission, and the state would levy a 10% tax on net income, with almost all of the profit going to education. Kindergarten to Grade 12 and the rest to problem gambling services.

Bernal said legalizing commercial sports betting would come at the expense of children in Ohio because the Senate bill does not include any provision that would protect children from local gambling advertising in the same way as children are already protected from tobacco advertising.

The gaming industry spent $ 154 million on local advertising in the first quarter of 2021, down from just $ 10.7 million at the start of 2019, according to a report from Neilsen.

If the bill progresses through the House, as it is slated to do in the fall, Bernal said the state legislature has a responsibility to prevent children from being targeted by the gaming industry. , because exposure to gambling advertising desensitizes young people to the dangers of marketed gambling, making them more likely to develop gambling problems later in life.

“Those targeted today will be the compulsive gamblers of tomorrow,” he said, citing a British MP who spoke of the record of youth gambling advertising in the UK.

Bernal called the K-12 education funding bill a “budget gadget” because sports betting would be regulated by the OCCC and not the Ohio Lottery Commission, which is to use lottery profits to support the game. local education.

But while Bernal wants the legislature to reject the sports betting bill, Tom Roberts, NAACP Ohio Conference chair and former state lawmaker, has said he will support the Senate plan. if it were amended to make the OLC responsible for regulating sports betting.

If passed as it is now, Roberts has said he believes the money that will be drawn from sports betting will reduce the amount of money going into the state lottery.

“Good public schools can lift children out of poverty, stabilize neighborhoods and help reverse Ohio’s economic decline,” said Roberts. “We have a chance to get it right and the bill passed by the Senate would be a disaster.”

The House sports betting bill, passed in May, would make the OLC the regulator of sports betting in Ohio.

Bernal said the bill would also hurt low- and lower-middle-income families, especially black and brown families, as taxpayer money from gambling offsets the write-offs casinos receive from the state.

The combined financial loss of Ohio’s personal wealth to the state lottery, existing regional casinos and video game machines is already $ 3 billion a year, he said.

Ohio is one of the few states that allows casinos to write off unlimited promotional play, often referred to as free play, which means that casinos can write off the cost of promotions like receiving $ 1,000 in free bets to encourage gambling. new bets.

Since 2019, casinos in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan and Virginia have deducted more than $ 336 million in free bets from their taxes, Bloomberg reported.

“You are redistributing your tax payable on a racial basis, because low income people, who are disproportionately black and brown people, lose more money per capita because of state-sanctioned gambling,” a- he declared.

With the Senate bill due for consideration by the House in the fall, Roberts said they plan to argue against the bill as it is currently drafted.

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The Ohio Capital Journal, an independent, non-profit news organization, connects the people of Ohio with their state government and its impact on their lives. The Capital Journal combines Ohio State government coverage with relentless investigative journalism; delve deep into the consequences of politics; political acumen; and progressive, principled commentary. The Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a national 501 (c) (3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers.

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