For the past few years, Ohio has been under the spotlight as a premier state that could legalize sports betting.
Yet lawmakers have taken their time to do so. After a busy 2020 session that nearly resulted in legislative approval, Ohio kicked up the urgency in 2021.
Stands to reason. The Buckeye State obviously boasts a passionate fanbase and a number of noteworthy professional franchises and college programs.
On top of that, four of the five states that border Ohio have legalized and launched online and retail sports betting.
Could Ohio join the group in the near future? As it has for several years, Ohio remains in the spotlight.
The Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming has stayed busy in 2021. The committee held seven hearings before heading off to spring break in late March.
After gathering testimony from a number of parties and stakeholders regarding legalization and how the industry would operate, the committee expects to return in late April with a bill drafted to discuss in committee. The committee would then turn it over to the Senate for additional consideration.
With a summer legislative break scheduled for July and August, it would behoove the Senate to get something over to the House over the next few weeks, as the House did with its proposal in 2020.
Lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene in September, setting up a dead sprint to the end of 2021. If all goes well, Ohio could legalize sports betting before the year’s session ends in mid-December.
After all, the Senate President created this committee on gaming, the chair of which indicated he would confer with the Senate President before drafting a sports betting bill. Accordingly, any proposal would have the support of Senate leadership. And considering the House passed a bill in 2020 before stumbling in the Senate, the table is set for 2021 legalization. Especially since Gov. Mike DeWine has expressed heavy support for doing so.
As for the launch, it all depends on the framework proposed and the pace at which sports betting legislation gets through both chambers. Having the Ohio Casino Control Commission already in place could help speed up the process of application review and licensing. Certainly, the timeline relies on a number of variables. In theory, though, Ohio sports betting could join its neighboring industries by going live in time for football season in 2022.
Updated: April 9, 2021
The Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming wrapped up its 2021 slate of hearings regarding the legalization of sports betting. Now, following a spring break, members of the committee wait to reconvene to draft a bill to advance to the Senate.
While many individuals expressed interest in being included in the Ohio sports betting industry, including grocery stores, bars, bowling alleys, and professional teams, one sector of the state has no such interest.
President of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, which represented 14 public universities in the state, Bruce Johnson requested that lawmakers not authorize collegiate betting in Ohio.
Johnson noted how “it would not take a great leap of logic” to believe student-athletes would become at risk of accepting payments to influence the outcomes of games. In addition, he noted, those athletes could be subject to heightened invasions of privacy.
In addition, Johnson said universities would need to integrate costly programs for compliance and training. He also pointed out that expanding sports betting could lead to a spike in problem gambling among students.
The committee now mulls a bill draft, which it will send along to the Senate once the spring break ends in late April.
How sports betting in Ohio will operate remains to be seen. However, based on previous proposals, it would appear as if state lawmakers would prioritize the state’s four casinos and seven racinos as operators of regulated sports betting.
Such an approach has been taken by the four states with regulated betting that border Ohio: Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
Not only would properties house retail sportsbooks, but it would make sense to allow those operators to launch online sports betting apps. How many skins each property would be afforded would be a point of debate. Previous proposals have varied between one and three mobile sportsbooks. Time will tell how the Senate committee approaches the topic and how the total ultimately stands.
Beyond casinos and racinos, if the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming hearings are any indication, it appears as if everyone wants a piece of the sports betting pie.
The likes of the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, and FC Cincinnati have requested to be included as potential sports betting licensees in Ohio. This would allow the organizations to open retail sportsbooks in or around their respective stadiums and launch betting apps. Such legislation has passed in Illinois, Virginia, and Washington, DC, so it would not be out of the realm of possibility to integrate Ohio pro teams.
Other suggestions aren’t as realistic.
During one hearing, for example, a representative from the Ohio Grocers Association asked the committee to consider allowing the state’s 600 grocery stores offering lottery tickets to also offer sports betting.
Similar ideas emerged to authorize wagering at Ohio bars, taverns, and bowling alleys.
However lawmakers decide to spread the Ohio sports betting wealth, there remains the possibility that they ban collegiate betting in the state.
That could obviously be a big hit in a state featuring the likes of Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati, not to mention six other FBS programs as well as five additional Division I universities.
The president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, speaking on behalf of the state’s 14 public universities, asked lawmakers to not allow collegiate betting. That said, the House bill that passed in 2020 authorized wagering on collegiate events.
Again, it all depends on how lawmakers get into the specifics of how Ohio sports betting will look.
While the Ohio Lottery and retailers have lobbied to be authorized to offer regulated wagering, the more likely industry would center around Ohio casinos and racinos.
If that’s the case, bettors could find retail sportsbooks at the following properties:
Say lawmakers also go the route of including pro teams, allowing those franchises to set up retail sportsbooks in or around their respective venues. If this were the case, the following teams and stadiums might consider taking advantage:
Another possibility, in theory, runs similar to a proposal made in Arizona, which would allow golf courses that regularly host PGA Tour events to get in on the sports betting action. This would open the door for Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, home to the annual Memorial Tournament since 1976.
As noted, while Ohio awaits legalization, four neighboring states have launched legalized sports betting in recent years. Until Buckeye State lawmakers green-light regulated wagering, these states remain Ohio bettors’ best options.
After launching legal sports betting in 2019, Indiana boasts 14 retail sportsbooks and 10 online betting apps, with brands including the popular DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, BetMGM, and William Hill.
As for brick-and-mortar operations, just outside Cincinnati and across the Ohio River sit both Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg (PointsBet) and Rising Star Casino Resort (TwinSpires).
Fortunately, with online sports betting legal in Indiana, Ohioans can download their betting apps of choice, set up accounts and simply cross the Indiana border to place their bets.
Similar to Indiana, Michigan has an array of retail and online sports betting options. To boot, many of the sportsbooks operating in Indiana expanded to Michigan, which went live with regulated wagering in 2020.
With 12 betting apps available, there’s no shortage of online betting options in Michigan, which also features more than 15 retail sportsbooks.
The closest brick-and-mortar options are just across Lake Erie in Detroit. There, the city’s three commercial casinos have unveiled retail sportsbooks: Greektown Casino Hotel (Barstool Sports), MGM Grand Detroit (BetMGM), and MotorCity Casino (FanDuel Sportsbook).
The Keystone State waited only a few months after PASPA fell to launch regulated wagering in the state. Since going live in 2018, Pennsylvania has introduced 13 retail sportsbooks and 12 betting apps.
Again, well-known operators have opened up shop in Pennsylvania, including DraftKings Sportsbook, which also has the nearest retail sportsbook to Ohioans.
Located in Washington, just a few miles east, DraftKings branded the brick-and-mortar sportsbook at The Meadows Casino that rests smack-dab in the middle of the casino floor.
Like its northern neighbor, West Virginia entered the legal sports betting world in 2018 and now features five retail sportsbooks and four betting apps.
The online betting landscape in West Virginia features DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, BetMGM, and William Hill.
The state’s two closets brick-and-mortars to Ohio can actually be seen from the western bank of the Ohio River. In New Cumberland is West Virginia’s farthest northern property, Mountaineer Casino, which boasts a William Hill retail book.
Just to the south, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack features a physical sportsbook powered by IGT.
Ohio lawmakers have appeared more urgent in 2021, though they remain meticulous. As the Senate Select Committee on Gaming prepares to draft a bill to forward along to the Senate, there is a chance a proposal could make it to the House before the summer break.
This all comes on the heels of an up-and-down 2020 that ultimately ended in disappointment.
It took nine hearings for the House Finance Committee to advance a sports betting bill. A day later, just before the summer recess, the House passed the bill.
Yet efforts ultimately fell short. There were differing opinions from the Senate on how Ohio sports betting should work, for starters. But lawmakers also had to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, not only on how to recoup financially but also prioritizing other bills because of pandemic-shortened sessions.
Of course, a federal bribery case further complicated matters, as former Speaker of the House Larry Householder took center stage in a scandal that centered mostly around a state-funded bailout for an Akron nuclear power company. While the controversy did not directly involve Ohio sports betting efforts, some hotel developers Householder met with allegedly wanted to add an amendment to sports betting legislation. This no doubt created angst for lawmakers, who became more hesitant to legalize the industry.
In 2019, both H 194 and S 111 were introduced by lawmakers. The respective House and Senate bills proposed different regulators, with the House tabbing the Ohio Lottery Commission and the Senate claiming the Ohio Casino Control Commission.
Throughout the year, government leaders split on bill support, including Gov. Mike DeWine, who sided with the Senate proposal. Yet both bills ended with the same fate: falling short of legalization.
No. Lawmakers have worked on legalizing sports betting in Ohio, including in 2021 with a Senate committee drafting a bill to advance to the Senate. For now, though, the industry remains illegal in the Buckeye State.
The Senate will likely consider a draft bill to forward along to the House before the legislative summer break at the end of June. When lawmakers return in September, it’s likely sports betting will become a hot topic of discussion. Theoretically, regulated wagering could be legalized before the 2021 session ends in mid-December.
It’s possible. Representatives from several pro teams in Ohio requested the Senate Select Committee on Gaming to include the organizations as potential sports betting licensees. If lawmakers go this route, it is possible these franchises could open retail sportsbooks in or around their respective stadiums or even partner with sports betting operators to launch betting apps.
It’s unclear at the moment. A sports betting bill out of the House in 2020 would have authorized collegiate betting. In early 2021, however, the president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, which represents 14 public universities in Ohio, requested lawmakers to ban collegiate betting.
No. Sites that say they accept online bets from Ohio operate outside of state and federal jurisdictions. These platforms may seem like reasonable alternatives since Ohio hasn’t legalized sports betting, but they do not offer the same consumer protections as legal sportsbooks do in neighboring states.
Yes. Ohio became the 18th state to legalize daily fantasy sports when then-Gov. John Kasich signed off on the bill in 2018. The Ohio Casino Control Commission overseeds DFS in Ohio, which features DraftKings, FanDuel, and Yahoo!