With legal sports betting in Ohio on the horizon, legislators are narrowing in on how the state will utilize an influx of new revenue. Ohio’s sports betting law designates 98% of tax revenue to a fund for schools. However, it’s unclear how the state will spend that money in the future.
Half of the funding will go to K-12 education, with the other half heading to extracurriculars like youth sports. Ohio is just the second U.S. state to earmark sports betting profits for children’s athletics.
With this framework in mind, legislators like State Senator Cecil Thomas are looking for more details from the Ohio General Assembly.
Where will Ohio sports betting profits go?
So far, there is a lack of clarity out of Columbus. WCPO Cincinnati found that officials have offered few details about where exactly sports betting revenue will go in the coming months.
House Bill 29 states that the general assembly will determine where funds will go and for what purposes. The law doesn’t make clear how or when these decisions will be made.
State Sen. Thomas wants to ensure that the sports betting money is getting to the Ohio children who need it. Thomas told WCPO:
“There should be some continuous work on the specifics of what does this all mean? How should the money be distributed? Giving the Ohio Department of Education guidance how to do this. But most of all we want to be very transparent.”
Ohio lawmakers return to session on May 18. That’s when Thomas intends to “initiate the conversation” with Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton. Schuring is the head of the Senate Select Committee on Gaming.
Thomas believes public hearings can benefit the state in these matters. He would like to see a plan in place that assists those who need it most. Thomas said:
“I’ve seen schools that come to the games, and they have everything that you could ever imagine. I would look at the most needed to the least needed.”
According to estimates from the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, sports betting could create $24 million in taxed earnings during the first year. That figure will potentially grow to almost $90 million annually once the market is established in about three more years.
Funding Ohio schools
Stephen Dyer, CEO of Education Policy Solutions and previously a lobbyist for the Ohio Education Association, offered some ideas. He wants the money to go through Ohio’s Fair School Funding Plan, initiated last June.
Dyer said, “I would prefer it was distributed through a formula that’s already been worked on for five years than to come up with something half-cocked at the last minute.”
If assessments are correct, legal sportsbooks could provide upward of $11 million to youth sports and schools each year.
Ohio sports betting launch updates
Ohio has made a lot of movement on implementing sports betting rules and regulations in recent weeks. The state has a deadline of Jan. 1, 2023, to go live, but it’s very possible that an Ohio launch will happen early.
During a recent radio interview, Schuring said the state will have “everything operational” perhaps by the middle or late fall. This would be incredible news for Ohio residents looking to wager on the NFL and the Cincinnati Bengals or Cleveland Browns.
Ohio has established license application windows for sports betting operators, with the first window opening in mid-June. Every sector of the sports betting industry must launch on the same universal start date. The Ohio Casino Control Commission has not yet announced a start date.
The Ohio sports betting market will include up to 25 online sports betting apps, 40 retail locations and potentially thousands of betting kiosks throughout the state.