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The Case for Legal Sports Betting in Ohio

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The Case for Legal Sports Betting in Ohio
People walk through Findlay Market as businesses begin to reopen in the wake of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, May 14, 2020, in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. (Photo by Jason Whitman/NurPhoto)

The state of Ohio has been on a bit of a roller-coaster ride toward their own legal sports betting platform but has been forced to adopt a “baby steps” approach toward legalization, thanks in part to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, there are two separate Bills, SB 111 and HB 194 that are being considered by legislators, the latter was actually approved by the house in May this year.

As it stands, both sides of the state Congress appear to be in favor of a legal sports betting platform which lends support to the notion that legalization is close. That said, there is an acknowledgement that launch of the platform still has some work to do before it becomes reality. If and when legal sports betting does come to Ohio, it is widely understood that the state will become one of the Heavyweights of the industry, almost immediately.

The Ohio Market

Excitement among bettors, sports betting providers and legislators is obvious in Ohio. The state boasts 11.54 million residents, which ranks as the seventh most populated states in the US and is home is 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.

Research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming points to a rabid sports fanbase and predicts a “hypercompetitive online sports betting market that we estimate will generate GGR of $607 million once mature”.

The research firm 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”.

Already, the Buckeye State is home to 11 casinos and racetracks which include high-end names that currently have a stake in the legal sports betting industry in the US. Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, and Penn National Gaming all have a presence in Ohio.

A Peek at What the Platform Tax Rate

While not impending, there has been some work on just what the Ohio legal sports betting platform could look like. According to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, Ohio will adopt a low tax rate on sports betting and open up the market to multiple providers. It doesn’t look as though the state’s legislators are going to hold back once legal betting is legalized.

In the most recent edition of its bi-weekly EKG Line report put out by Eilers & Krejcik said “Ohio is contemplating an 8% tax on revenue. That rate, which is lower than any other operational state of its size, should result in one of the country’s most aggressive advertising and promotional environments”.

For comparison sake, Ohio’s neighbor Pennsylvania has a US industry-high 36% tax rate, Illinois check in at 15% and Michigan is closest to what Ohio proposes with an 8.4% tax. 8% will be the most attractive in the country, meaning that providers will be lined up for a shot at the Ohio market.

Why the Renewed Push?

You can bet that the impressive handles coming out of neighboring states since the return of Major sports in the US haven’t been lost on Ohio legislators. Participating states have been busy, topping up their depleted COVID-ravaged coffers, while Ohio’s sports betting contributions haven’t even gotten off the ground.

Neighboring Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia have all had success with their own for of legal sports betting and Kentucky hasn’t been shy about their desire to bring on their own platform. Citizens of Ohio have been crossing state lines in droves for the chance to place a sports bet. Legalizing their own platform will largely put a stop to that.

So When May We See Sports Betting in Ohio?

Ohio’s Senate will begin a new session on October 14 with virtual meetings in which a legal sports betting platform could certainly be one of the topics of conversation. The House returns November 10 and will similarly have legal sports betting as one of its talking points. Both bodies held zoom meetings over the summer in efforts to get something done.

We wanted to have a short turnaround time for comments and reviews for both bodies. There is no true deadline, but we are eager to get going on this,” Sen. John Eklund-R, sponsor of the Senate bill said. “We are going to proceed with a document that all sponsors can stand behind and we will see that the temperature of the Senate is as we go through the regular committee process. “If we are persistent about it and everything goes accordingly, we could do that by the end of the month (October).”

The pressure is definitely on for Ohio legislators to get something pass legal sports betting legislation. By the end of 2020 they could be the only kid on their block without some form of legal sports betting. And nobody in the state wants that.