Sports Betting in Ohio is “Inevitable”

In the spring of this year, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine called the possibility of legalized sports betting in Ohio “inevitable”. It has been over nine months since DeWine made that statement and now it appears to be coming to fruition. It was reported earlier this week that legislators had reached an agreement on the practice, and yesterday it became official.

On Wednesday, both the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives voted to pass a bill that would legalize sports betting by the end of next year. House Bill 29 passed by a wide margin and had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. The bill had enough support to be considered “veto-proof.” Now, the bill heads to Gov. DeWine’s desk for approval. The Ohio Governor has 90 days to pass the bill.

The bill itself would allow stadiums, casinos, and many other vendors to offer sports betting to customers. It also would include a tax on sports gambling that would go to funding key programs within Ohio. Surrounding states have seen monthly revenues skyrocket as of late, so it is no surprise that Ohio lawmakers are eager to get in on the action.

What Took So Long?

The United States Supreme Court lifted the ban on sports betting back in 2018 and dozens of other states have already legalized the industry. In states bordering Ohio, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and others, sports betting has seen record numbers in revenue over the past year. Ohio is also home to a number of professional sports franchises and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That has left many people wondering, why has it taken so long for Ohio to legalize sports betting?

Ohio’s lack of legal sports betting is not the result of not trying. The legislators in Ohio’s House and Senate have been attempting to pass sports betting bills for years. Unfortunately, previous bills have not been able to garner enough support in both chambers to pass. Now, despite a sluggish start, it appears that the majority of lawmakers in both houses are ready to make legal sports betting in Ohio a reality.

That is not to say that every kink has been worked out. As Rob Walgate from the American Policy Roundtable points out, the current bill could violate Ohio’s constitution. An amendment to the state’s constitution in 2009 made it so players can only gamble at one of Ohio’s casinos or racinos. The current bill allows for sports betting to take place anywhere, not just at the brick-and-mortar operations. Lawmakers may need to pass a new amendment to the state’s constitution for the bill to have its desired effect.

Luckily, Ohio legislators have moved quickly over the last couple of months to get the sports betting bill passed. Adding a new amendment to Ohio’s constitution would be more challenging than passing a new bill, but legislators appear motivated to get in on the sports betting action, and the revenue that comes along with it.

What Will Sports Betting in Ohio Look Like?

If, more like when, the current sports betting bill is passed it will open the door for sportsbooks across the state. The proposed legislation will allow for stadiums, casinos, restaurants, and bars across Ohio to apply for a gambling license. The widespread availability of licenses would if all goes to plan, result in significant revenue for the state.

The revenue would be generated by a 10% tax on all gambling revenue in the state. Lawmakers plan to use the money generated by the tax on sportsbooks to fund veteran and education activities throughout the state. Ohio’s sports betting market may not reach the heights of some of the biggest gambling states, like New Jersey, but even smaller states have seen monthly incomes in the 100s of millions. The additional income would go a long way in helping programs recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

One aspect that would certainly help increase revenue would be adding mobile sports betting options. The mobile sports betting industry has exploded over the last few years. By allowing mobile sportsbooks to operate, Ohio legislators would greatly expand the sports betting customer base. The more people that can engage in sports betting, the more revenue the state will generate from its 10% gambling tax. The popularity of both professional and collegiate sports in the state makes it an attractive option for sportsbooks looking to expand into new states.

Conclusion

A new bill has passed through the Ohio legislator that would make Ohio the latest state to offer legalized sports betting. Currently, Ohio is one of only 19 states that have not yet made sports betting legal. With HB 29 now on Governor DeWine’s desk for approval, it is only a matter of time before the Buckeye State offers sports betting.

The bill could mark the end of years of negotiation within the state’s legislature. Several other bills have been proposed since 2018, but they have failed to gain enough support to pass through the chambers.

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Now, Governor DeWine has 90 days to sign the bill into law. DeWine could try to strike down the bill, but it received enough support in the House and Senate to be considered veto-proof.

There are still some issues to work out, such as potentially needing to amend Ohio’s constitution, but things are moving in the right direction. Once passed, the bill will allow for sports betting to start no later than the beginning of 2023. Ohio legislators have included a 10% tax on gambling revenue that would go toward funding the state’s educational and veteran activities. As the state continues to recover from the effects of the pandemic, the additional revenue from sports betting could go a long way in accelerating the process.