On the same day the Republican-dominated Ohio House passed a resolution to put Canada on the religious freedom watch list, the Ohio Senate passed a bill that, according to critics, could give a lucrative deal to a Canadian company to run the state lottery.
Senate bill, SB269, sets out the power of the Ohio Lottery Commission to conduct Internet lottery games and make other changes to lottery rules. Critics of the bill say the legislation is also a “romantic deal” that would direct business to a Canadian company and create a monopoly for NeoPollard Interactive.
Bars, bowling alleys, fraternal clubs, truck stops, grocery stores and other small businesses in Ohio that sell lottery products are part of the Ohio Lottery Retailers Association. Greg Beswick, a spokesperson for the group, said physical lottery retailers he represents could go on strike or stop selling lottery products if the bill becomes law.
“It’s like we do one thing and then do the opposite when it’s politically expedient,” Beswick said.
Beswick said the bill establishes rules for Internet lottery games and makes other changes to lottery games.
“It eliminates business owners who have provided lottery sales for the past four decades and who have been the backbone of the lottery, because it allows for example the mobile lottery to pay higher payments than if you bought the lottery at your local convenience store. We also think it just gives an unfair monopoly and again it looks like the legislature is giving a politically connected customer a monopoly,” Beswick said.
Beswick says several key Republican operatives with close ties to Gov. Mike DeWine and other state leaders steered him through the Senate.
“That’s what happens when you see legislation moving too fast and you only have one side that really has time to present only the benefits of a bill,” Beswick said.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously. Beswick said that was because some lawmakers were unaware of key elements of the bill.
As the Senate approved the bill, House Republicans across the statehouse voted for a resolution, HR194which urges the US Commission on International Religious Freedom to add Canada to a religious freedom watch list.
Canada is also a strong trading partner with Ohio. Canada is the top export destination for Ohio companies, absorbing approximately 40% of all Ohio exports. Over $20 billion worth of goods and services from Ohio are exported to Canada each year.
In a written statement, Ohio Lottery spokeswoman Danielle Frizzi-Babb said Manager Pat, Manager McDonald, was not involved in evaluating the bid for iLottery. The statement indicates that iLottery is simply a means for the agency to sell certain lottery games over the Internet and, as with the current product portfolio, the goal is to create pricing structures that maximize sales, which will maximize profits for education. And the agency added: “The physical stores are the backbone of our business and we would never launch a program that harms these businesses because it jeopardizes the lottery and its commitment to education.”
Republican Senate leaders did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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