Ohio Sports Betting Legislation Will Have to Wait Until 2021

Ohio Sports Betting Legislation Will Have to Wait Until 2021
© USA Today

Just 10 days ago, an amended sports betting bill was given a bit of fresh air during a weekly Ohio Senate General Government Agency Review Committee. The committee approved a motion to review the new proposal this week.

But when Wednesday’s committee meeting was held, the new proposal was not on the meeting agenda and it did not reach the floor.

For all intent and purposes, with the 133rd Ohio Legislature ending on Tuesday, the sports betting bill is dead in Ohio for 2020.

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It’s not entirely surprising given that it was a lame-duck session after the Nov. 3 election and three primary supporters won’t be back. One, Sen. John Eklund (R-District 18-Chardon), is term-limited, and two others weren’t re-elected.

But with the state needing revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic, legislators could take a strong look at sports betting in 2021, especially since sports betting legislation had some momentum late in the year.

On Nov. 18, during the Ohio Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee, sports betting legislation received backing from the sports betting industry. Those same industry stakeholders will want to see something get done in 2021.

Amended Bill Wasn’t Perfect

Eklund, sponsor of the bill, could not be reached for comment Friday. But he gave highlights of the amended bill on Dec. 8:

  • 11 licensed casinos and racinos will be permitted on-site and online for sports betting.
  • The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) will be the regulator.
  • Brick-and-mortar gaming licenses will be limited to a single online skin (down from three since September).
  • An 8% tax on sports gaming receipts; 2% of tax revenue will go to problem sports gambling and 98% to education (revenues divided among all school districts in state based on number of students in each district then distributed annually).
  • Licenses would cost $200,000 every three years ($100,000 for application fee, $100,000 for license fee — same fees would apply for renewal).

Foundation of a Bill is in Place

With the new session of the Ohio legislature set to take place in early January, lawmakers can still consider the foundation of the amended bill or go back to the drawing board with possible new legislation and new sponsors.

Neighboring Indiana and Pennsylvania set state records in October and November for sports betting handle. And Michigan is likely to have online sports betting and iGaming live as early as mid January.

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