E Betting – As Ohio prepares for sports betting next year, a new form of legal betting was quietly launched last month. None of them pose a threat to slot machines, which are Ohio’s favorite betting platform.
CINCINNATI – Ohio launched a new form of gambling on April 1st. Marc Rizzo has won two awards through April 3.
“I won $500 on Saturday and $400 on Sunday,” said Rizzo, a farm insurance agent and proud member of VFW Post 6069 in Lebanon. “It’s money for charity, so it’s better than going to a casino where they don’t give anything.”
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Lebanon Post is one of about 900 veteran and sister organizations currently eligible to license e-Bingo, an electronic gaming platform, approved under an amendment to the budget law last June. The amendment ended a nine-year legal battle over the legality of electronic game consoles. It could also triple the number of appliances used at Moose Lodges, Amvets and VFWs, like the Lebanese canteen that Rizzo frequents.
“It’s a pretty big expansion,” said Derek Longmire, executive director of the Ohio Problem Gambling Network. “The more gambling opportunities there are in Ohio, the more Ohioans will be affected.”
Mike Milam, a Navy veteran who does bookkeeping for a 200-person occupancy, said gambling addiction will not be a problem for the five new slot machines operating at 15 W Silver Street in Lebanon.
“Without charity games, fraternal orders would basically go out of business,” Milam said. “The important thing here is that when you play, we all win. Whether it’s (paper bingo) tickets or slots, every dollar you play supports the post office. And we get 25 cents on every dollar.”
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9 The I-Team is leading the expansion of gambling in Ohio as state-sanctioned bets will be available on thousands of new locations and millions of smartphones over the next 12 months. In addition to the 9,000 new slot machines now made possible by e-Bingo, the Ohio Lottery intends to roll out 2,500 sports betting booths in bars and restaurants by January 1, 2023. The Ohio Casino Control Commission is writing rules that allow 25 online operators to work together or compete with 40 writers. A retail or stationary athlete.
Charity gaming made up just 2% of the $27.6 billion pie that was the legal gambling market in Ohio in 2021. Slot machines and video lottery terminals accounted for 78% of all bets last year, with $12.8 billion in seven races in the state and $8.6 billion. Dollars divided between four casinos in Ohio. When the Ohio sports betting market fully develops, experts predict that it will require between $3 and $12 billion in annual betting.
Will these bets increase the market to more than $30 billion? Or will players cut back on slot machines and lotteries cover their sports bets? What impact will these changes have on gambling addiction in Ohio? A 2017 Ohio Department of Mental Health study estimated that the number of at-risk and problem gamblers doubled after casinos and racinos opened between 2012 and 2014. Will that happen again with this expansion?
Such questions were dismissed as irrelevant at the VFW platform in Lebanon, where members played cards and showed off new camera machines.
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“If we see someone drifting away and spending their rent money on machinery, it’s not hard to identify those things,” Milam said. “With this group, someone will say something about it.”
Charity bingo has been legal in Ohio since 1976, but most veterans and sister organizations used tabbed games prior to 2011, when the Ohio Veterans Alliance and Fraternal Charity Coalition contracted with Columbus to install electronic lottery games at veterans’ outposts statewide. This put the veterans in direct competition with the casinos and Racinos that gradually opened between 2012 and 2014.
In 2013, then-Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine ordered the closure of electronic lotteries, claiming that they were slot machines, which are only legal in casinos. The veteran groups quickly won an injunction to prevent the closure, sparking a court battle that lasted into January. The Ohio Supreme Court ultimately dismissed the case as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office introduced a new regulatory framework for e-Bingo.
“In the old slot machines, we had wheels and things that were very similar to what you have in casinos,” Milam said. The new machines are “electronic handles, they call them. These are supposed to be electronic versions of pop tickets, which you can of course buy at bingo.”
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The new games debuted to mixed reviews in Milam’s VFW publication. Some members have complained that it is difficult for them to win. Others said the machines froze. Milam said his supplier told him a software fix was in the works, which has been slowed by the regulatory review requested by the attorney general’s office.
Milam is relieved that the legal issue has been resolved. However, he is troubled by new restrictions in the games, including one rule that makes him ineligible to play.
“The casinos and the government have cracked down on us to make charity work more difficult,” he said. “People are still playing it on our stand, but it’s hard to say if it will work. I’ll know more in six months.
“We didn’t do those calculations,” said Mark Downing, general counsel for Grover Gaming, one of three companies licensed to produce and distribute e-Bingo games in Ohio. “By the end of the day, we will have more than 200 sites installed and active, and we expect to have 1,200 electronic bingo machines installed and working.”
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Downing said Ohio had three companies competing in this market prior to last year. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has licensed six companies as manufacturers or distributors, and three applications are pending. The competition is really fierce. Milam said Grover Gaming changed pricing a few weeks after the Ohio launch to match rival Arrow International. It shares 65% of all revenue with its customers, instead of the 50-50 revenue split that dominated the industry last year.
“I expect we’ll be able to capture a significant share of the Ohio market, based on the best products and the best prices for these clubs,” said Ken Lynshard, director of sales for the Arrow.
Like Grover Gaming, Arrow International is a licensed developer and distributor who declined to provide revenue projections. But they both see an opportunity to make more money in Ohio with the new system. This is because each authorized organization can install up to 10 devices. So Ohio may eventually have 9,000 machines in operation.
“Before, there were more than 3,000 lottery-style games,” Lynshard said. “So this is a great opportunity for us.”
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The man in charge of organizing the new machines doesn’t know how many bets will be made on them.
“The machines that existed before instant electronic bingo were illegal and unregulated,” said Daniel Fauci, chief of the charitable law division at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. “So we don’t have good data on how these machines are used.”
The AG has better numbers for its paper bingo games, which generated $689.7 million in bingo receipts in 2021 and $93.7 million in net profits for veteran combinations, after prizes and expenses are paid. Fausey isn’t sure how the new games will affect lottery game revenue, but he added that the goal of the new hardware is to “block the availability and revenue stream they’ve seen from” electronic lottery machines.
“What we’re really doing here is modernizing the existing bingo game and doing it transparently,” Fauci added. “They are committed to giving us real-time access to their data and their money. We will be able to make sure that the money goes where it needs to be… and that it is safe for users.”
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Longmire wonders if lawmakers are considering the implications of passing the new electronic bingo rules in a last-minute budget amendment. There was no public debate or hearings on the amendment.
“Getting stakeholder opinions is critical,” said Longmire. “Understanding the impact that will be critical. Implementing consumer protection is essential to help those who will be adversely affected.”
“The starting age for e-Bingo is 18, compared to 21 for casinos or a game of Racino,” said Longmeier. There are no funds allocated to support those affected. And they’ll be in veteran fraternity clubs. Veterans are more likely to have gambling problems than the general population.
For Milam, charity games solve more problems than they can cause, while also bringing some joy.
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“Every year around Christmas we all wear our VFW hats,” he said. “We meet at Walmart at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday, and just as we land an amphibian, we all raid. We grab the gigs, go buy $5,000 worth of toys. All at once. And we take him to his local Toys for Tots Lebanon.” E-wallets are the most secure and private
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