Recently, the Ohio State Senate introduced SB 176, legislation which among many things will regulate state-wide sports betting. As with all gaming legislation, there will undoubtedly be a lot of questions about the best way to ultimately structure this legislation, as well as the benefits and potential issues associated with creating a regulated, legal sports wagering market.
These are concerns I dealt with as a state legislator when I led the effort to legalize sports betting in my home state of Michigan. And, based upon that experience, I can tell you that authorized, regulated sports betting can be done safely and responsibly to the benefit of all involved.
Sports betting is everywhere outside of Ohio
Legal sports betting is being established across the country. In fact, more than 29 states have already adopted sports betting, or have legislation close to approval, resulting in the creation of healthy, sustainable, revenue-generating markets built upon responsible practices that feature player protections and integrity protocols at their core.
As a result, legal and regulated sports betting is growing significantly, and its financial impact is being materially realized. For example, legal betting handle on Super Bowl 55 totaled $486.4 million, and that only includes the first 16 states plus Washington DC, which have reported full or preliminary results. For comparison, legal betting states reported more than $280 million in handle last year with the full US estimated around $300 million.
In Michigan alone, the total handle in January and February of this year was more than $173 million. Of this, the state of Michigan collected more than $14 million in tax revenue, while the city of Detroit captured over $20 million. This is much-needed revenue that helps fund schools, public service agencies, and first responders without raising taxes on citizens; the same can be true in Ohio.
It is naïve to think that Ohioans aren’t taking advantage of the legal sports betting market available in neighboring states. In fact, while betting numbers for the March Madness tournament are still being tallied across the country, GeoComply (a company specializing in national geo-location services) presented data that showed nearly 900,000 online gaming transactions took place within 10 miles of the Ohio border over the first four days of March Madness. The state of Indiana netted $2.5 million in tax revenue from sports betting in March, and operators paid about $17.8 million in taxes to the state of Michigan.
What Ohio is losing
Without a legalized framework, Ohio is on the outside looking in and many Ohioans are either traveling elsewhere to place their bets, diverting tax dollars out of the state, or putting themselves at risk by continuing to wager with illegal sportsbooks.
Over the years, I have learned through my experiences in working with industry experts that common social concerns about gambling are actually alleviated through proper regulation and oversight. Thanks to the abundance of technological solutions, legalized sports betting includes safeguards that allow wagering patterns to be closely and actively monitored. Therefore, providing operators the ability to quickly identify potential patterns for addiction and the ability to provide early intervention wherever needed.
Finally, one of the biggest benefits to establishing a regulated market is increased integrity protections. With advanced technology, we can have access to specifically designed integrity controls, and legal bets can be closely monitored in real-time. This split-second intelligence spots anomalies and plays an integral role in keeping athletes and consumers protected from match-fixing and betting-related corruption.
It is the duty of the Ohio legislature to create a regulated environment where citizens can wager securely and safely, with consumer safeguards in place. And, at the same time, allow the state to benefit from this activity. Ohio must act now to adopt these well-documented best practices and legalize sports betting for the benefit of its citizens, its communities, and its economy.