Here’s What We Learned from Ohio Sports Wagering Hearings

Here’s What We Learned from Ohio Sports Wagering Hearings
© USA Today

Ohio is now in wait-and-see mode for sports betting and e-bingo legislation.

The ninth and final informal hearing on possible sports betting and e-bingo legislation by the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming took place Wednesday morning with four in-person witness testimonies (mainly in favor of e-bingo), along with six written testimonies.

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The committee’s first session took place on Feb. 3.

Two weeks ago, Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), the committee chairman, set a timeline for what the next steps would be as they enter April.

After Wednesday’s final session and almost two months of hearings, a scheduled holiday break will begin for two weeks.

Schuring said he will contact every member of the committee for their input based on the testimony presented during the hearings. He will then confer with Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who formed the committee, before introducing a bill in April after the break.

There have been 46 live witness testimonies and nine written statements — ranging from every professional sports team in Ohio to one golf tournament (the PGA Tour’s Memorial). Also giving input have been 11 gaming companies, numerous veterans, grocers, beverage and lottery groups, bowling centers and gaming manufacturers. Legislation will be discussed, drafted and presented by the next Senate session on April 21.

The majority of the testimony has been in favor of passing sports betting and e-bingo legislation — the bill is HB 65 and it revises the electronic instant bingo law — for the state.

Ohio Gaming Committee Gets to Work

Schuring 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. Any bills would be created after the informational process had concluded.

Gov. Mike DeWine early in March reiterated — and predicted — that sports wagering will be legalized this year in Ohio. How it will be presented and in what form is another story.

“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.”

The Ohio legislature is in session until Dec. 31.