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Ohio On Track to Be Next State to Legalize Sports Betting?

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Ohio On Track to Be Next State to Legalize Sports Betting?
Pgoto by Caleb McGuire

The state of Ohio has jumped into the lead of the unofficial race to become the next state to be welcomed into the bustling US legal sports betting family. Years of talk seems to finally be becoming to a head in the state with legislators finally taking tangible steps toward launching what they hope to be an elite-all encompassing platform.

The Ohio State Senate on Thursday released a wide-ranging document that gives us a glimpse into what they hope to see come to fruition with respect to a legal sports betting platform. Senate Bill 176, a detailed 252-page document was introduced Thursday with the promise of some debate on the contents in the next few weeks.

Ohio lawmakers have identified the end of June as a possible jump-off date for launch of legal sports betting in their state.

What’s at Stake

There has been no shortage of studies done on how a potential Ohio legal sports betting platform would benefit their state. Research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming is one such company that has studied and pointed to the immense benefits.

Eilers & Krejcik Gaming predicts “hypercompetitive online sports betting market that we estimate will generate GGR (Gross Gaming Revenue) of $607 million once mature”. Their report went on to say: “We estimate that Ohio is the sixth-ranked U.S. state in terms of sports fandom, and the seventh-ranked state in terms of college football fandom”.

Ohio is home to its fair share of high-profile pro and college sports teams including one of the most decorated NCAA sports programs in the nation, the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL, the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds of MLB, the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA and Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL.

The state also ranks seventh in the nation in terms of population. That population combined with the rabid nature of the sports fandom makes Ohio one of the juiciest markets still without their own platform in the US industry.

Breaking Down the Bill

Senate Bill 176 looks like the most complete piece of legislation yet for Ohio legislators to consider. It is complete and seems to cover all of the important aspects of a potential legal sports betting launch.

Sen. Kirk Schuring said of the piece of legislation: “This bill is about the free market. It’s about saying to those that want to get into sports gaming, eBingo, lottery form of gaming, iLottery — everybody is going to have to participate and be a part of the process. There is not going to be any prescriptive language in the legislation that would give someone special preference.”

The language of the Bill points to the awarding of 40 total licenses – 20 Class A which covers existing betting outlets such as casinos and racetracks along with 20 Class B licenses which covers brick-and- mortar sportsbooks that can offer prop bets. Sports teams at this time will not receive automatic licenses, although they should be able to obtain permission through the application process.

Each license will cost $1 million, and the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) will be in charge of regulating the potential platform. A flat 10% tax rate has been identified in the Bill.

Moving Forward

With Senate Bill 176 bringing to light the possibility of legal sports betting in Ohio, both chambers of the legislature will get their say on the issue starting May 12 in the Senate. The goal is to try and get a final draft prepared for the Governor to sign.

“Gaming is here today in Ohio,” Senator Schuring said. “All we want to do is put guardrails around it to make sure it’s done correctly and make sure folks that are working in the black market cannot hurt Ohioans.”

The timeframe is up in the air for that to happen but hopes among lawmakers is that the Governor will have something on his desk by the end of June. “The goal of getting sports betting done before we recess for the summer is a high priority,” House Speaker Bob Cupp said Wednesday.

Where It Leaves Ohio

Ohioans have never been this close to a legal sports betting platform coming to their jurisdiction. It has been bubbling beneath the surface for years, but lawmakers failed to act… until now.

Governor Mike DeWine went on record back in March saying: “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”.

The time seems to be now for proponents of legal sports betting in Ohio. There is certainly a ton of momentum but little clarity on if and when something gets done. The one thing we know is that we will know by the end of June just how serious lawmakers of Ohio are.