Ohio Gaming Committee Sets Timeline for Sports Betting Bill
April is looking like a big month in Ohio for a draft of sports betting and e-bingo legislation.
During an informal hearing of the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming this week, Sen. Kirk Schuring, the committee chairman, opened the meeting by laying out the groundwork for the remainder of March and next steps.
The committee will meet two more times on March 24 and March 31 and after a scheduled break for the Passover and Easter holidays, a bill will be introduced in Ohio.
“During the religious holidays we have a two-week period of break and during that period, I will be contacting every member of this committee for their input on the bank of evidence that has been presented to us relative to gaming as a whole,” Schuring said during the hearing Wednesday. “Then I’ll be conferring with the Senate president after I have a chance to talk to the committee, and at that point, we’ll build a bill, and we’ll introduce a bill when we all come back from the break.”
The hearing was the seventh in the process with multiple testimonies given, including the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Columbus Blue Jackets, Columbus Crew and one written testimony.
A total of 38 live testimonies have been presented to date, from sportsbook operators and other possible stakeholders, including MGM Resorts, Penn National Gaming (Barstool Sports), theScore, FanDuel, VFW and even the Ohio Grocers Association.
Gov. Mike DeWine early in March reiterated — and predicted — that sports wagering will be legalized this year in Ohio.
“Sports gaming is already in Ohio. Ohio is just not regulating it and this is something that is, I think, inevitable and it's coming to Ohio,” DeWine, a Republican, said during a daily coronavirus press conference on March 2. “The members of the General Assembly are working that process and I will have the opportunity to see what they come up with and I’ll have the opportunity to weigh in at the appropriate time, but sports gaming is certainly coming to Ohio.”
A bill to legalize sports betting passed in the Ohio State House last May. The pandemic and the 2020 election delayed the state’s timeline. Ohio already has casinos and racinos.
An amended sports betting bill was filed in the Senate in December but was never reviewed by the Ohio Senate General Government Agency Review Committee and therefore never had a chance to be approved in 2020.
Gaming Committee Formed in Ohio
In late January, Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) formed the committee to oversee gaming regulation and to analyze the industry's economic impact on the state.
“The growing gaming industry is something Ohio must be prepared to address,” Huffman said in a news release when he announced the committee on Jan. 22.
On Feb. 3, Schuring (R-Canton) said at the beginning of the process that he wants an open forum on issues — hearing from everybody that is involved — and the meetings will not be hearing about specific legislation, but legislation can be created after the informational process has concluded.
The Ohio legislature is in session until Dec. 31.
States Surrounding Ohio Seeing Sports Betting Benefits
More pressure was put on Ohio when its neighbor to the north, Michigan, had a successful launch of its mobile sports betting and online casino markets on Jan. 22. Other states bordering Ohio — Indiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — already had thriving sports betting markets, with Pennsylvania and West Virginia also having online casinos.
The first full month of online sports betting in Michigan saw a handle of more than $300 million ($301.8 million). The three Detroit casino retail sportsbooks accounted for another $23.7 million in handle. Online casinos had $79.7 million in revenue for the first full month, while online sports betting accounted for $9.5 million in gross revenue.
Michigan saw about $14.2 million paid in taxes, while Detroit received $4.4 million in February from online gaming and sports betting.
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