Not If But When: Gov. Mike DeWine Says Legal Sports Betting ‘Inevitable’ In Ohio

Posted By Martin Harris on March 3, 2021 - Last Updated on March 4, 2021

There appears to be no more question as to if Ohio legalized sports betting. If recent comments from Gov. Mike DeWine are any indication, it’s only a matter of when.

“Sports gaming is already in Ohio,” DeWine said during a press conference Monday. “Ohio is just not regulating it and this is something that is, I think, inevitable and it’s coming to Ohio.”

DeWine describing the legalization of sports betting as “inevitable” is notable. Ohio came close to legalizing the industry last year, and efforts in that direction have already begun in earnest in 2021.

DeWine echoes earlier support for legal sports betting

The governor fielded the question at the very end of an hour-and-a-half press conference Monday afternoon.

The state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic consumed most of the time. However, the final question from Dustin Enginger of the Gongwer News Service concerned the new Senate Select Committee on Gaming and recent meetings to research the topic as they consider possible sports betting legislation.

DeWine alluded to lawmakers “working with that process” and his contentment to find out with them what conclusions they draw.

“I will have the opportunity to see what they come up with. I’ll … weigh in at the appropriate time, but sports gaming is certainly coming to Ohio.”

DeWine’s comments fall in line with his previous support of legalizing sports betting in Ohio. In fact, last year, DeWine had called on lawmakers to pass legislation before the 2020 elections in November.

The state House passed a sports betting bill in the spring, but for various reasons, the legislation failed to reach the goal line and find its way to the governor’s desk.

Senate Select Committee pushing forward with weekly meetings

Since its formation, the Senate Select Committee on Gaming has met three times this month.

The committee spent its first full meeting hearing from representatives of Penn National Gaming and MGM. In a committee meeting last week, a representative of Ohio’s grocery stores voiced support for legal sports betting. In fact, grocers not only like the idea, but they’d also like to participate as operators.

At the meeting, Joe Ewig, a lobbyist speaking for the Ohio Grocers Association, said that Ohio’s 600-plus grocery stores would like to provide sports betting in much the same way they participate as Ohio Lottery vendors.

The grocers’ case is unlikely to receive much support from lawmakers and other interested parties seeking to limit the scope of retail sports betting in the state.

Committee members also heard from representatives of FanDuel, theScore and iDEA Growth, who shared advice about best practices for implementing online sports betting.

Ongoing topics being considered by the Senate Select Committee on Gaming include:

  • whether or not to allow betting on college sports
  • what types of wagers to allow, including prop betting
  • the number of online skins to allow per licensee
  • at what rate to tax sports betting revenue
  • the issue of using official league data

The committee is scheduled to meet again this week and intends to meet every Wednesday afternoon going forward.

Photo by AP / John Minchillo
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