Ohio Senator Bill Coley has called for the lottery sector to take additional action in order to generate funds as decisions are yet to be finalized regarding the regulation of sports gambling in the state. 

The statements follow on from K-12 schools having budget cuts of $300m due to a decline in state revenues, with Coley, the president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS), stating that it is the responsibility of the Ohio Lottery to replace the losses whilst also revealing his belief that sports betting will not bring in a lot more money for the state.

A letter penned to Ohio Lottery Director Patrick McDonald, by Coley read: “During past economic downturns, Ohio leaders turned to the Lottery for recommendations on ways to raise more revenue without raising taxes.

“In 2008, as Ohio climbed out of the Great Recession, the Lottery introduced Keno in bars, taverns and other outlets. And in 2010, the Lottery Commission created new rules governing the operation of Video Lottery Terminals at Ohio-licensed racetracks. Together, those exciting additions accounted for nearly 40 percent of lottery sales in fiscal year 2019 and helped the profits earmarked for education top $1 billion for the past three years.

“Last year, the Lottery was on pace to set a record, according to Greg Bowers, deputy finance director for the lottery. Mr. Bowers pointed to mid-year figures showing the Lottery was poised to break the previous year’s record of $4.42 billion in sales – $3.36 billion from traditional games and $1.06 from VLTs at our racetracks.

“Then COVID-19 hit. The racinos and many other businesses that offer Lottery products temporarily closed, and Ohio saw a swift decline in Lottery profits and other revenue. Our state now faces an economic downturn so severe that Gov. Mike DeWine announced plans to cut more than $300 million in K-12 public-school funding.

“Lottery officials have responded to these challenges with uncharacteristic silence. It is time for the Lottery to step forward and recommend ways to maximize lottery profits. Today, legislators are debating competing plans to fight illegal gaming by allowing legal sports betting in Ohio. One plan favors oversight from the Lottery, the other calls for the Casino Control Commission to oversee and benet from sports betting.”

Despite 1.3 million people filing for unemployment since mid-March, Coley stated that the lottery could still find ways to generate ‘entertainment dollars’ that would usually have been spent on movies, concerts and sporting events despite people having lost income during this time. 

Coley also discussed the possibility of adding new games and promotional opportunities that could see these additional revenues generated such as that of Keno following the recession of 2008 and the addition of electronic slots at horse racing tracks in 2010.

The letter continued: “I am asking the Lottery to find a solution that would benefit casinos, schools, small businesses and racetracks and help avert the deep and devastating cuts to education that the governor is seeking. With the Lottery at the hub, systems can be designed that will allow Lottery’s new casino and racino partners to utilize their own platforms. 

“As you may have read, the problem gaming people have looked at this issue and they have stepped in to support the idea of a centralized system that would be able to minimize problem gaming issues.

“Ohio is blessed with a mature Lottery that understands its mission and its customers. The explosive growth of casinos, jackpot fatigue and waning interest from millennials have caused many state lotteries to see revenues decline. Ohio, however, has kept players interested and sales rising by offering exciting new options.

“Legal sports betting is one way that Ohio could bring in new revenue. The Ohio House already has passed a sports betting bill and the Ohio Senate is expected to pass a rival measure by year’s end. Given the Lottery’s expertise, I am confident that its leadership team can propose a reasonable alternative that would help boost money for education and help small businesses that have been selling Lottery products for many years.”