The majority owner of a northeast Ohio sports complex told on Tuesday that the boarding school for elite-level teenage athletes located at the site will not have anything to do with the organization’s plans to host a retail sportsbook and mobile sports betting app.
Advocates for responsible gaming practices and others who have raised concerns about expanding gambling are skeptical about the claims and question whether such an organization should be involved in sports betting.
On Friday, the SPIRE Institute filed applications with the Ohio Casino Control Commission to partner with an online sports betting operator and a retail sportsbook. SPIRE wants to work with Out the Gate, a new entrant to the sports betting industry.
The SPIRE Academy is a boarding school where high school students and recent graduates can hone their athletics skills to reach the next level. The school field teams include basketball, soccer, swimming, track and field, and wrestling.
Helping athletes in their development is a team of ambassadors that includes Olympic gold medal swimmers Ryan Lochte and Caeleb Dressel, as well as NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo.
The managing partner of the SPIRE Institute, Jonathan Ehrenfeld, told that the Ashtabula County complex has an annual economic impact of 95 million dollars. Tourism is a major economic engine of the area, whether they are visiting the institute, local wineries, or recreational areas.
He said that having a sports gaming option for them somewhere nearby would be just another activity that could be interesting and exciting for somebody that wants to participate. We want to be able to offer different kinds of activities.
It would be located off-campus if it were approved for a retail sportsbook. No one under the age of 21 would be allowed to bet on sports in Ohio, and it would have security measures in place.
SPIRE has a liquor license that allows them to serve alcohol on-site. That is used for weddings and other events at the facility. Alcohol is not sold at youth sporting events.
There are more than one entity applying for a sports betting license in Ohio. MLS teams FC Cincinnati and the Columbus Crew run academy soccer programs to identify teenage athletes who may be able to play at the college, professional, and even the international level. Youth football, soccer, and lacrosse events are hosted at HOF Village Newco in Canton, which is a mixed-use development around the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Responsible gaming proponents told that an organization that runs a high school should not be involved in sports betting. They said the association between the academy and sportsbook raises concerns about exposing and normalizing the product to kids who can’t legally bet.
Brianne Doura-Schawohl, a consulting firm focused on promoting responsible gaming practices, said it doesn’t matter that wagering won’t be offered on high school games.
James is a community prevention manager for the Prevention Action Alliance, a Columbus, Ohio-based certified prevention agency that works on several responsible gambling initiatives. Several universities prohibit alcohol advertising on their campuses to limit exposure to under age students, according to him.
Beer and liquor have the same concerns when it comes to sports betting.
Syphax told that they want people to set limits to gamble, but of course that means legally. We wouldn’t want any of our young people to engage in gambling activities. It just doesn’t seem like the best fit for that access and availability piece.
It would be impossible for any of the students at SPIRE to engage in gambling.
He said there wouldn’t be a window of opportunity for them. Measures that are going to be put in place are going to be difficult. There is not going to be an opportunity for a 17-year-old kid to engage in gaming. It is not going to happen.
We take it very, very seriously. A lot of what we do here at SPIRE is geared towards building our brand. We don’t want to see any type of flexing of the rules.
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling’s Executive Director, there are other concerns with having a sports betting operator tied closely to an organization that runs a school.
A lot of gambling is marketed this way, because the implicit assumption is that if you patronize their sportsbook, you’re helping kids. Gambling is marketed to benefit education and we think that is a poor way of justifying gambling.
The high school students are not the only ones at risk. The NCAA and the Department of Veterans Affairs were listed as SPIRE partners. People who are at high risk of developing problem gambling behaviors are members of those organizations.
She said it was impossible to keep the sports betting venture separate from the academic and athletic endeavors.
I hope that they will be equally aggressive in their pursuit of protections for their current clientele, and that they have never spoken with me before. It’s going to have an impact. It will be felt at some point. Their new business will trickle down to the people they currently serve.
SPIRE doesn’t offer any gaming education for students or people who use its facilities. If the licenses are approved, he believes there will be opportunities for that.
He thinks it could be beneficial because we are seeing the emergence of sports gaming, and he thinks there is a way for it to be a contributor to society. The dark side is something we all want to avoid.
Les Bernal, executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling, said that he was shocked that an institution that is supposed to educate children would want to venture into sports betting, and urged SPIRE to withdraw its application.
He told that they need to live up to the mission of the educational institution. That is not supposed to be about greed.
Lawmakers in Ohio heard from Bernal back in 2019. He claimed that studies from Great Britain showed how placements for gambling affected how kids viewed sports. When they turned the legal age, they were more likely to become betting customers. They were more at risk of developing problem gambling behaviors.
He said that again on Monday.
The idea that sports gambling is normal for young people is what it is. It is a very dangerous activity for people of all ages. Gambling addiction was rated the same as an addiction to cocaine and heroin by the American Psychological Association in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This product is dangerous and should not be used by young people.
The focus on Ohio sports betting has been on professional sports teams and the state’s casinos and racinos having access to licenses. The definition of who can partner with a sportsbook or online operator has been expanded by the law passed last December.
One of the criteria for being a sports gaming proprietor is that they must either operate a retail sportsbook or have at least one established business in the state.
Under the law, sports teams, venues, and racinos that host major professional events are given “preference” for licenses by the OCCC.
The fee to apply for a type A, or online sports betting proprietor license, is $150,000, according to Jessica Franks. The retail proprietor license fee is $20,000. If approved, the cost for a five-year license to host online sports betting app would be over a million dollars.
If the OCCC approves the entities that applied by Friday, they will be able to offer sports betting on New Year’s Day.
Franks told Tuesday that commission investigators will conduct background checks on applicants as part of the review. The commission will make a recommendation on whether to approve or deny the license application.
Franks said that if an application is denied, the applicants will have the right to request an appeal. The OCCC would act on the report drafted by the examiner.
The majority owner of a northeast Ohio sports complex told that the boarding school for elite-level teenage athletes located at the site will not have anything to do with the organisation’s plans to host a retail and mobile sports betting app. On Friday, Geneva Sports LLC, which operates as SPIRE Institute, filed applications with the Ohio Casino Control Commission to partner with an online sports betting operator.