Lawmakers ‘Confident’ Ohio Will Legalize Sports Betting By Year’s End

Posted on September 15, 2020

Legislative sponsors for Ohio sports betting have worked out the differences between their bills, setting the stage for the Buckeye State to legalize sports wagering this year.

Rep. Dave Greenspan and Sen. John Eklund tell PlayOhio that they have worked out the details of substitute language for H 194, which will be the vehicle for passage.

The House passed its sports betting bill in May with the Lottery Commission overseeing Ohio sports betting. The substitute tabs the Casino Control Commission as the regulator.

Greenspan is confident the bill will pass in the lame-duck session following the election.

“It’s not going to get done before the election because we’re not in session in October,” Greenspan said. “I feel good about our prospects for passage this general assembly.”

Choosing a regulator for Ohio sports betting

Who will ultimately be the regulator for Ohio sports betting had been a long point of contention between the sponsors.

Eklund, co-sponsor Sean O’Brien, and Senate leadership wanted the Casino Control Commission.

Greenspan, co-sponsor Brigid Kelly, and the House went off a legal opinion from the Legislative Services Committee (LSC) that the Lottery Commission was the only option.

Greenspan said new information led the LSC to issue a second opinion that the regulator could go either way. So he acquiesced on the regulatory body with the compromise that the revenue from sports betting still goes toward education.

Greenspan stated:

“Based on the Senate’s insistence on the Casino Control Commission and the governor being in the same position, we fundamentally saw that this is what we need to do to advance the bill. If the CCC is allowed to have this and we know the support in the other chamber and the governor’s office is the CCC, let’s go that route.”

More details of Ohio sports betting bill

The substitute limits sports betting to Ohio’s 11 casinos and racinos, which may also offer the activity online. Veteran halls and fraternal organizations, permitted to have sports betting kiosks in the House bill, are now excluded.

Additional key points of the Ohio sports betting substitute bill include:

  • 8% tax rate (a compromise between 10% in the House bill and 6¼% in the Senate)
  • Three skins allowed per casino/racino
  • No mandate for official league data
  • Initial license fee of $100,000
  • An exclusion for wagering on high school sports

Ohio leaves leagues out of sports betting bill

Neighboring Michigan opted to include a mandate for sports betting operators to use official league data in legislation passed last year.

New York and Massachusetts, the other two states making an effort to pass sports betting bills by the end of the year, also include a mandate.

Greenspan spoke against a mandate in committee sessions last year and fought to keep it out of the bill.

“In my mind, that’s a federal issue and not a state issue. It doesn’t make sense for some states to give them a fee or mandate while others don’t. I told the leagues they should be talking to Washington, not the states.”

Path forward for Ohio sports betting bill

The four sponsors were able to come to terms on all of the discrepancies between their bills, which sets it up well for passage.

Gov. Mike DeWine also called for the legislature to act on sports betting this year. He values the educational revenue component of the bill, which could help keep Ohio from making cuts during a difficult fiscal time.

Greenspan doesn’t foresee any major opponents to the legislation, other than the sports leagues for not getting the data mandate.

H 194 still needs to be assigned to a committee in the Senate. Once the bill passes in the Senate, it needs to return to the House for concurrence.

Greenspan stated:

“Given that the governor is in support of the bill, the Senate and House sponsors have come to an agreement on what the bill looks like, and in the end it’s not too different from what the House had, I don’t think there will be much resistance to passage.”

Ohio’s legislature is only in session next week before breaking to prepare for the election. The bill won’t be taken up before the election. Ohio’s legislative session goes until the end of the year.

Matthew Kredell Avatar
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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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