In 2018, the United States Supreme Court made a landmark decision to allow states to establish their own sports gambling operations and legalize the activity on their own terms. Since then, Midwest states in Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, and Indiana have legalized sports betting and have fully launched their gambling operations. In addition, Ohio has been working through legislation to join its Midwest neighbors in the rapidly expanding industry of sports betting. They will look to make significant progress in the Senate on Wednesday.
Ohio Sports Betting Update
Ohio residents were hopeful that sports betting could be implemented in 2020, but COVID-19 slowed all legislation. Senator John Eklund had repeatedly told Ohioans to be patient as the state worked through the necessary legislative steps. In addition, some individuals preferred to see the Ohio Lottery be in charge of sports wagering. Still, the Ohio Casino Control Commission will oversee the process as states that do not have the lottery overseeing sports betting have seen more success.
Senate Bill 176 will go to a vote on Wednesday. This bill presents the possibility for up to 53 licenses for sportsbooks to take wagers on professional and collegiate sports. Applicants hoping to gain a license in Ohio will need to pay a $1 million application fee. These licenses will be spread throughout the state of Ohio based on county populations, as each license will be associated with an in-person location.
25 of these licenses will be made available to Ohio’s casinos and horse racing tracks (racinos). In contrast, the other 28 licenses will be available to brick-and-mortar locations, including casinos, racinos, sports bars, and betting shops. Additionally, the licensed locations will partner with existing national sportsbook providers to implement an online/mobile aspect.
SB 176 allows for betting kiosks in bars and nightclubs that serve hard liquor with a $200 betting limit per day per customer. These kiosks would allow bets on spreads, money lines, or points totals. This legislation would also permit the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to operate electronic bingo at veterans’ and fraternal organizations and the Ohio Lottery Commission to operate sports betting pools.
The Ohio Professional Sports Coalition was thrilled about this potential progress, stating that their “coalition is grateful for the care in crafting a bill providing opportunities for fair market access to Ohio’s pro sports organizations, which produces the games that make sports betting possible.”
College Sports Update
Senate Bill 176 will apply to professional and collegiate sports betting, which has raised more than a few eyebrows. The Inter-University Council of Ohio is very much in opposition to sports betting on collegiate football and basketball. Council CEO Bruce Johnson has stated that if Ohio moves forward with college sports betting, universities will need to monitor student-athletes to ensure they aren’t participating in point-shaving or selling sensitive information to outside bettors.
The new bill would see sports gambling implemented in Ohio no sooner than January 2022. Legislators have forecasted that Ohio could earn about $17 million in tax revenue in the fiscal year starting July 1, 2022, and around $23 million in the year after that. The current proposal would have 98% of the tax deposited in an education fund and the remaining 2% in a fund for problem sports gambling. However, Ohio bettors have been very patient, and that patience could be rewarded shortly if things go well in the Senate on Wednesday.