No Bucks On Buckeyes: Ohio Universities Ask To Be Excluded From Legal Sports Betting

Posted By Matthew Kredell on March 18, 2021

For the past six weeks, the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming has heard from a wide variety of businesses that want to participate in sports betting. Wednesday, it heard from one sector that doesn’t — Ohio’s public universities.

Bruce Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, asked lawmakers to collegiate sports wagering. The council represents 14 public universities in Ohio, including Ohio State.

Johnson, a former Lt. Governor and state Senator in Ohio, told the committee:

“If wagering on collegiate athletics is permitted, it would not take a great leap of logic to conclude the risk of student athletes soliciting and accepting payments to influence the outcome of games may increase. While we would like to believe that our student athletes are men and women of impeccable integrity, and most are, it would be naive and irresponsible to simply dismiss or ignore that the temptation to compromise performance or trade on information exchange for financial gain becomes increasingly real and significant with legalized sports wagering on college athletics.”

Reasons Ohio schools don’t want to be part of legal sports betting

Johnson provided the following reasons for the Council’s request:

  • Sports wagering would likely subject student athletes to heightened invasions of privacy, including publicly releasing injury reports.
  • To guard against the negative effect of sports wagering, universities would need to invest in expanded training and monitoring programs.
  • Ohio universities would have to create costly compliance programs for student athletes, students, boosters, coaches, gameday personnel, broadcast partners, medical staff, faculty and staff.
  • Expanding sports wagering has the potential to increase problem gambling among the student population.

“In this environment, information now becomes a very valuable commodity,” Johnson said. “A roommate, friend or associate may be aware of a publicly undisclosed injury, have access to play designs or other intelligence that may be of value to someone placing a bet on the outcome of a game and could solicit or accept payment in exchange for that information.”

The sports betting bill that passed the Ohio House last year did include wagering on college teams.

Sen. Niraj Antani pushed back on the idea college athletics shouldn’t be included in the bill, peppering Johnson with questions. He asked if any other states have banned college athletics altogether.

None have, although some, such as New Jersey and Illinois, prohibit wagering on in-state schools. Some lawmakers think that was a mistake. A bill in Illinois seeks to lift that ban.

College prohibition goes against argument from pro teams

At Wednesday’s hearing, representatives of the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and Columbus Blue Jackets urged the committee to act quickly to legalize sports betting while giving market access to the state’s pro teams.

Their request for a retail sports betting location and mobile skin mirrored the ask from the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians last week.

One of the arguments offered by sports teams was bringing Ohioans betting on illegal offshore websites into the legal market.

“Including us in the deployment of legal sports betting will ensure we can help to drive the conversion of the illegal market to the legal, regulated marketplace,” said Brian Sells, vice president and chief marketing officer for the Bengals.

However, not allowing Ohioans to bet on Ohio State could keep them in the illegal market.

Representing the Browns, Ted Tywang asked the committee to include language ensuring a quick launch for sports betting in Ohio.

“When it comes to sports betting, both the state of Ohio and our professional sports teams have fallen behind. For this reason, we would like to see legalized sports betting in Ohio as soon as possible and believe that the legislation should include a concrete and accelerated timeline for regulatory implementation.”

The time frame for Ohio Senate to draft sports betting bill

This was the fifth hearing in which the Select Committee on Gaming listened to testimony from interested parties.

Chairman Kirk Schuring said the committee will hold two more hearings the next two Wednesdays.

The Senate is then breaking for three weeks. During the break, Schuring said he would meet individually with each member of the committee. Then he will seek input from the Senate President.

After those talks, the committee would build and introduce a bill. When the Senate returns from break in late April, it appears a bill will be ready to discuss in committee.

Photo by AP /Al Goldis
Matthew Kredell Avatar
Written by
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.

View all posts by Matthew Kredell