Ohio Sports Betting Legislation Gets Backing Before Committee

Ohio Sports Betting Legislation Gets Backing Before Committee
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Ohio Sen. John Eklund had hoped on Wednesday to “inform and refresh in the minds” of the Ohio Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee the work that has been done to get the state closer to legalized sports betting.

Mission accomplished.

Eklund (Republican, District 18), co-sponsor of SB 111, gave committee members an update on a current draft compromise bill during the hearing, the third on the legislation. The legislation was also supported by written and in-person testimony from sports betting industry leaders in Ohio.

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Due to COVID-19, six proponents of the bill including representatives of iDEA Growth, Boyd Gaming, MGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and Penn National Gaming submitted written testimony supporting the legislation.

Adam Suliman, vice president of sports & digital gaming at Cleveland-based Jack Entertainment, spoke in favor of the bill.

“We are excited about the prospect of adding physical sportsbooks and related amenities at our properties here in Ohio,” Suliman said. “We are preparing to make significant capital investments and create new jobs at our facilities.

“Our customers tell me regularly that they are looking forward to a day in the near future when they can wager legally on their favorite sporting event. It feels like we are very close to providing them with that opportunity and for that, we are appreciative.”

The end result: They will now need to wait until SB 111 gets another hearing and that will be determined by the call of the chair. So right now, it’s in a holding pattern with the hearing not delivering either good or bad news.

States Around Ohio Have Sports Betting

Neighboring Pennsylvania and Indiana set state records for total handle in October. West Virginia also has strong sports betting and online casino markets. Legalizing sports betting in Ohio is more important now that Michigan is likely to have online sports betting and iGaming operational by the end of the year or early next year.

Two of the three key sports betting sponsors in Ohio were not re-elected on Nov. 3. Rep. Dave Greenspan (R, District 16) and Sen. Sean O’Brien (Democrat, District 32) lost their races, and Eklund will finish out his nine-year term at the end of the year.

That means the Ohio legislature is considering its current sports betting bill proposals, which also includes HB 194, in lame-duck sessions in November and December. If it doesn’t move forward, it must go back to the drawing board with a brand new bill and new sponsors when the new legislature takes over in 2021.

“After nine years, I’ve come to the conclusion that you just never know,” Eklund said the day before the hearing. “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. There are valid reasons behind both points of view, we just have to see.”

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

The Latest Ohio Sports Betting Legislation

The 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 an earlier version of the bill. It also offers an 8% tax rate, a $100,000 fee for a 5-year license and no official league data mandate.

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

The Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) would be the chief regulator in the House bill, while the Senate bill puts oversight with the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC).