Ohio Hopes To Keep Sports Betting Legislation Moving Forward

Ohio Hopes To Keep Sports Betting Legislation Moving Forward

Two weeks after Election Day, Ohio is looking to save its sports betting legislation.

On Wednesday, the Ohio Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee will hold a hearing (its third overall) on sports betting legislation with the main discussion focused on a current draft compromise bill, which could get amended into the original SB 111.

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“I think this hearing will inform and refresh in the minds of the committee the work that we have done over the summer and continue to do on the Senate bill,” Sen. John Eklund-R (District 18), co-sponsor of SB 111, said in a phone call on Tuesday. “Those that are in favor of the bill, they will continue to support the legislation, but I don’t believe there is a firm belief of which bill would be the bill, whether the senate or the house. We are prepared to move forward.”

On Election Day, two of the three key sports betting sponsors were not re-elected as Rep. Dave Greenspan-R (District 16) and Sen. Sean O’Brien-D (District 32) lost their races.

So the Ohio legislature must pass its current sports betting bill proposals, which also includes HB 194, in the lame-duck session in November and December or it must go back to the drawing board with a brand new bill and new sponsors when the new legislature takes over in 2021.

Legislation has floated in the Ohio General Assembly since 2018, after the Supreme Court overturned the federal sports betting ban. But it has been a long road in Ohio to even get bills out of committees.

Latest Ohio Sports Betting Proposal

The latest HB 194 proposal cut the number of Ohio sports betting licenses to two for each casino and racino operator in the state, down from three in the September version of the bill. It would mean a total of 22, down from 33. It also offers an 8% tax rate, a $100K fee for a 5-year license and no official league data mandate.

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The House bill has called for the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) to be the chief regulator, while the Senate bill puts control with the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC).

College sports within the state will be allowed for sports wagers on the NCAA Division I level, but college club sports will not.

With the second wave of coronavirus and everything that is going on right now, where not only personal wellness and economic health are weighing on the minds of leaders, this would seem to be a no-brainer to move forward to gain some much-needed revenue flowing into the state.

“I genuinely do hope so, but after nine years, I’ve come to the conclusion that you just never know. Some might say let’s do it, some might say with everything that is going on, why not let it go to next year and start anew,” said Eklund, who will finish out his nine-year term at the end of the year. “There are valid reasons behind both points of view, we just have to see.”

Neighboring Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia already have strong sports betting markets. Getting sports betting legislation approved is more important than ever for Ohio with Michigan likely to have online sports betting and iGaming operational by the end of the year or early next year.

Arrival of Casinos in Ohio

Before 2009, casinos were prohibited within the state, so bettors had to take their action to casinos in Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In November 2009, Ohio voters approved a measure that would allow for four casinos to be established in the state, one each in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo.

There are also seven Ohio racinos (located at racetracks) throughout the state. All 11 casinos are open 24 hours.