The Ohio legislature is taking the first steps toward legalizing online casinos.
Lawmakers in the Buckeye State are hosting a hearing to discuss the issue next month. The Ohio Sports Gaming Study Committee will discuss Ohio online casinos at a Feb. 20 hearing.
The committee will meet four times this year. Rep. Jay Edwards and Sen. Nathan Manning will be co-chairs of the committee.
Over the four meetings, the committee will discuss the state’s gambling landscape. They will look at possible changes and potential avenues for expansion.
Online casinos are only real expansion avenue left
With brick-and-mortar casinos, racinos and online and retail sports betting, online casinos are the most logical way to expand the market.
Edwards told PlayUSA that online gambling will be a focal point of the hearings.
“iGaming will be a big topic, I’m sure,” Edwards said. “I think there will be a fight between the online platforms, the skins that already exist, versus the current brick-and-mortar casinos that are offering those products now.”
Don’t expect legislation in 2024
Legislators passed Ohio sports betting legislation in 2021. After the Ohio Casino Control Commission created the regulatory framework in late 2021 and into 2022, the market launched at the start of 2023.
Edwards said that they are still in the exploratory phase of online casinos. Lawmakers are unlikely to introduce a bill this year.
However, if a bill is introduced and passed in 2025, Ohioans could play online casino games as early as 2026.
“Really, we’re not pushing to get this done,” Edwards told PlayUSA. “There’s no bill introduced or anything like that. What we’re trying to do is start the conversation, get best practices, educate members and allow regulators some input on the process so that when we are ready, we can start to implement that.”
Edwards’ comments indicate that while a bill might not be imminent, lawmakers are at least curious about the endeavor. It should make Ohio bettors optimistic for the 2025 legislative session.
The committee will also look at online lottery sales, racinos, charitable gaming, sports betting and daily fantasy sports.
Could Ohio start a domino effect?
Six states currently have legal online casinos. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, Connecticut and Delaware allow it.
Ohio shares a border with half of that list. Furthermore, gambling expansion tends to happen in regional clusters, like what happened with sports betting.
State governments that can see neighbors have markets that generate tax revenue without significant societal downside become more likely to legalize.
With a population of about 11.8 million, Ohio is the seventh-largest state in the country. Pennsylvania is the only larger state with an online casino industry.
If Ohio legalized the market, that could draw national attention, especially if it sparked a larger regional effect.
There are 30 states with online sports betting, which will jump to 32 by the end of 2024. All those states could be online casino candidates if it becomes mainstream enough.