Ohio Legislature Decides On Sports Betting Language, Sends Bill To Governor

Written By Matthew Kredell on December 8, 2021 - Last Updated on December 16, 2021
Ohio Sports Betting Passes December 2021

Sports betting is coming to Ohio, and it’s shaping up to be one of the more inclusive markets in the country.

Ohioans may even be able to place their bets at some supermarkets.

A legislative conference committee agreed on final sports betting language Wednesday for House Bill 29. And the Senate wasted no time in approving the conference report by a 31-1 margin.

A couple of hours later, the House followed with a 72-12 vote. That finally puts sports betting legislation on the desk of Gov. Mike DeWine, who has long asked for it.

The Ohio sports betting bill allows for 46 online sports wagering sites/apps, 40 retail sportsbooks and sports betting kiosks at thousands of restaurants, bars and grocery stores with the proper liquor license.

No shortage of sports betting opportunities in Ohio

The Ohio legislature worked on sports betting legislation over the past three years. In previous years, sports betting bills limited the activity to the 11 casinos and racinos in the state.

Sen. Kirk Schuring took charge of crafting a sports wagering bill in a Senate Select Committee on Gaming in 2021. He made it clear early on that he wanted an open, competitive marketplace for sports betting in Ohio. And he got it.

The bill creates three classes of licenses:

  • A license: Permits 25 online sports betting licenses. Only the 11 casinos/racinos and 10 sports entities are eligible to apply for a second skin.
  • B license: Permits 40 brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. These must be spread throughout the state with counties of 800,000+ population having no more than five; counties at 400,000-799,999 no more than three; and 100,000-399,999 no more than two.
  • C license: Provides a maximum of two kiosks at Class D liquor license permit holders. These locations already have lottery kiosks through the Ohio Lottery.

In introducing the conference report on the Senate floor, Schuring explained:

“We said right from the very beginning, it’s about free-market principles, it’s about economic opportunity that actually will lead to economic benefit. That is the key. This is going to benefit the state of Ohio economically. In addition, we all know that sports gaming is going on right now, as we speak, illegally. We’re going to put the necessary regulatory guardrails around it to make sure that it’s done correctly here in Ohio.”

A complicated fee structure for Ohio online sportsbooks

Type A licensees split the fees for online sports betting with the management services providers with which they partner.

Sports teams pay less for a license than other entities, but their partners pay more. And second skins come at a premium.

  • For an initial license, sports teams pay a total of $1 million over five years. Casinos/racinos and others pay $1.5 million.
  • To contract with two management service providers, sports teams must pay $3.33 million. Others pay $5 million.
  • However, in renewing the license after the first five years, they all can go back to paying the original rate for one skin even, if they offer two.

Licensing fees for management service providers (MSP) are as follows:

  • $2 million over five years if the first MSP partnered with a sports team.
  • $1.5 million if the first MSP partnered with any other sports gaming proprietor.
  • $6.7 million if the second MSP partnered with a sports team.
  • $5 million if the second MSP partnered with any other sports gaming proprietor.
  • On renewal, a second MSP pays the same rate as a first MSP.

Additional changes made by Ohio conference committee

The Ohio conference committee formed after the House opted not to concur with sports betting language the Senate added to an unrelated bill on veterans identification cards in June. That move was an attempt by Schuring to get sports betting passed before the chambers took their summer break.

Schuring chaired the committee for the Senate, and Rep. Jay Edwards did so for the House.

Key changes made by the conference committee include:

  • Allows sports entities, as well as casinos/racinos, to apply for a second skin.
  • Instructs the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) to determine if an application for a second skin demonstrates an incremental benefit to the state. The second skin also must not prevent another Type A licensee from partnering with a management services provider.
  • Increases the Type A and Type B license terms from three years to five years.
  • Changes the fee structure for Type B licensees. Those that also have a Type A license pay double ($100,000) for the first year. Everyone pays $10,000 each additional year.
  • Reduces license fee for Type C gaming from $2,000 to $1,000 every three years.
  • Allows the OCCC to license one sports gaming facility in counties with a population less than 100,000 if the county gets at least 5 million tourists a year.
  • Allows wagering on esports events.
  • Removes a provision that would have allowed sports gaming proprietors to offer wagering on horse racing.
  • Orders a study to ensure the equitable distribution of sports betting licenses.

When can Ohioans bet on sports?

Ohioans should expect to bet on sports prior to the 2023 Super Bowl, but it could be earlier.

The conference committee added a Jan. 1, 2023 deadline for the launch of sports betting in Ohio. That’s a much later start date than if lawmakers had passed the bill in June (the original goal). That bill included a first licensing deadline of April 1, 2022.

Schuring explained that the OCCC wants time to make sure that everyone can launch at the same time.

“We hope that it will start before then, but we want to make sure we do it right,” Schuring said. “We want to make sure that we have the right regulatory guardrails. We want to make sure there’s enough applicants out there who can take advantage of this new economic opportunity in the state of Ohio.”

Photo by AP file photo
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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