The Ohio gambling industry continues to grow and expand. In 2012, there were no casinos at all in the Buckeye State.
Now there are four casinos and seven racinos. The years of Ohio gamblers funneling into casinos in Indiana and Michigan came to an end. But history seems to be repeating itself.
Four of the five states bordering Ohio have an active sports betting industry. The lone exception is Kentucky, which has been considering its own legislation in recent years. As Ohio tries to keep up with surrounding states, lawmakers in Columbus continue to consider legislation to legalize online and retail sportsbooks, thus keeping those Ohio gamblers in Ohio.
There are two kinds of gambling properties in Ohio. Four are your standard casinos. These offer the standard amenities you would find at a Vegas casino, including slots, table games, and poker rooms. Those for properties are:
The other group are racinos. These properties are connected to horse racing facilities that offer a range of both thoroughbred and harness racing on site. Unlike the four casino properties, these racinos do not offer table games. Instead, the only casino gambling available is on what are called video lottery terminals. Don’t let the fancy name fool you. These are just another word for slot machines.
The seven racino properties are:
Betting on horse racing in the state may be legal in Ohio, but betting on sports remains outlawed. That could change by the end of the year, thanks to a legislative effort to bring online sports betting to Ohio.
In spring 2019, two dueling sports betting bills were introduced in the Ohio House and Senate. In September 2020, the sponsors of the bills came together and got on the same page with a substitute bill.
Yet as 2020 wound down, the topic of legalizing sports betting never reached the Senate floor. As a result, lawmakers have to huddle up and start anew.
The substitute bill took the place of H194, which passed the House in May. House sports betting legislation sponsors Dave Greenspan and Brigid Kelly came together with Senate sponsors John Eklund and Sean O’Brien to reach a compromise on the differences between their bills.
Key points of the substitute bill included:
After 13 committee hearings, Ohio sports betting couldn’t even reach the Senate floor.
Yet as Sen. John Eklund pointed out, it likely had nothing to do with the content of the bill. Rather, a federal corruption case involving the Ohio statehouse tainted the proposal.
Former Speaker Larry Householder was indicted in a federal bribery case after allegedly meeting with hotel developers regarding sports betting legislation. Turns out, those developers were working with the FBI for a sting operation. While the meeting did not impact the bill, lawmakers were hesitant to keep it alive as it had been attached to the scandal.
Three of the bill’s four sponsors will not return to make another push at legalizing Ohio sports betting. One senator termed out, and two others lost re-election bids.
While any effort to legalize sports betting will have to start from scratch, there is still hope for 2021.
After all, it appeared the 2020 bill received thorough vetting and only awaited a vote. And even with new sponsors at the helm of any legislative pushes in the new year, Ohio enters 2021 will plenty of momentum.
Optimism remains for Ohio to be part of the next wave of sports betting legalization, especially when considering the state will be searching for additional revenue streams to help recoup losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we mentioned, Kentucky is the only Ohio neighbor without a sports betting industry. Here’s a look at how the surrounding markets are faring so far and what Ohio will be competing with should it legalize and launch sports betting.
In less than a year of operation, Indiana sportsbooks have already brought in over $1 billion in wagers in the Hoosier State. The industry is the oldest in the Midwest, with retail sportsbooks taking the first bets in September 2019. Thanks to a gaming commission willing to experiment with betting options, Indiana betting apps offer odds on non-sporting events like the Academy Awards, professional sports drafts, and even the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Retail sportsbooks: 11
Online betting apps: Eight
Launch date: September 2019
Tax rate: 9.5%
Michigan sports betting is still in its infancy. The Detroit commercial casinos just started taking retail wagers in March 2020, but COVID-19 quickly shut the industry down. Now that things are reopening, the Detroit books are back in action, as are a handful of tribal casino sportsbooks. The next step is the launch of online betting apps, which should happen in early 2021.
Retail sportsbooks: Six
Online sportsbooks: None
Launch date: March 2020
Tax rate: 8.4% plus 1.5% additional for Detroit casinos
Pennsylvania is one of the largest and healthiest sports betting industries in the US. The Keystone State is thriving despite major concerns about its hefty $10 million upfront licensing fee and substantial 36% tax rate. Nonetheless, 12 of 13 casinos opted to pay for the license. Of those, 10 are operational with both retail and online offerings, with two more on the way. After launching retail betting in late 2018, the state has produced over $2.5 billion in bets, nearly $150 million in revenue for the casinos, and over $50 million in tax revenue for the state.
Retail sportsbooks: 12
Online sportsbooks: Nine
Launch date: November 2018
Tax rate: 36%
West Virginia is the only state with a lottery-regulated sports betting industry. However, the state’s casinos are the ones the West Virginia Lottery licenses to offer online and retail sports betting. After a problematic launch with BetLucky in December 2018, sports betting shut down in March 2019. It was only in August 2019 that DraftKings and FanDuel entered the state and started offering online betting. Since then, the state has turned into a small but stable sports betting industry.
Retail sportsbooks: Seven
Online sportsbooks: Three
Launch date: December 2018
Tax rate: 10%