Ohio Lawmakers Get Ball Rolling On Sports Betting

Ohio Lawmakers Get Ball Rolling On Sports Betting

Keen to keep up with the legal sports betting efforts of its neighboring states, Ohio has now jumped on the bandwagon by introducing two sports wagering bills of its own. While the wording of the bills has been left intentionally vague, the lawmakers who introduced the legislation said that it was important to get the ball rolling during the current session in order that a framework for Ohio’s future sports gaming industry could be adequately explored.

Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 714, which enjoy bipartisan support, have now been introduced in the state’s legislature, and as the House version’s sponsor, State Representative David Greenspan (photo), explains:

“We’re going to work together with the Senate and the house to come up with a comprehensive bill. It’s one issue, it’s one policy we’ve got two chambers and we’re going to work collectively and collaboratively to come up with a program that we believe will be in the best interest of the residents of Ohio and help promote our economy as well.”

Senate Bill 316

On July 12th, SB 316 was introduced to the Senate, with its sponsors including Democrat Senators Sean O’Brien, Joseph Schiavoni and Kenny Yuko, and Republican Senators John Eklund, and Randall Gardner. Like its counterpart in the House of Representatives, its aim is to “develop and enact legislation legalizing sports wagering” in Ohio, with O’Brien and Eklund expressing their hope that details on the bipartisan bill will be filled in by September. All being well, sports gambling may then be launched in the Buckeye State as early as mid-2019.

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House Bill 714

HB 714 was introduced in the House almost a week later on July 17th, and is a partisan bill sponsored by State Representative David Greenspan, a Republican from Westlake. Like its counterpart, the bill is currently vague in its wording, but is meant to signal the intention of lawmakers to seriously look into the issue of sports gambling in the state. Furthermore, the similarity of the two bills should ensure that there won’t be any competition between them that may stand in the way of progress going forward .

Building Consensus

The Senate bills’ main sponsors, Senators John Eklund (Republican) and Sean O’Brien (Democrat), have said time will be needed to gauge the general views of the public, as well as receive feedback about what stakeholders would like a prospective legalized sports betting market to look like. In addition, O’Brien said that he’s already spent considerable time exploring the opinions of bar, casino and racino owners, as well as researching sports gambling bills passed in other states in order to facilitate a path forward for Ohio.

“My thinking right now is we already have casinos and racinos set up,” explains O’Brien. “I’d kind of like to keep it in those institutions because they are set up for gaming. I’m not sure we want it in every 7-Eleven and every bar.”

Building consensus for sports betting in Ohio is essential as following a positive vote in both the Senate and House, Ohio’s citizens would then have to vote to pass an amendment to the state constitution before Governor John Kasich eventually signs it into law.

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Economic Boost

In May, the US Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports betting, which had previously restricted wagering from taking place outside of Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. Since then there has been a major push by state legislatures across the country to jump on the sports betting bandwagon, and become part of an industry that is thought to receive between $50 and $380 billion in wagers per annum.

Up until now, just Nevada has offered the full range of sports betting products, and in 2017 it generated $4.8 million in revenue, of which its sportsbooks won a record $248.7 million. According to some estimates, however, illegal bets currently account for around 95% of the USA’s sports betting market, meaning a significant slice of the industry is still waiting to be wrestled away from unauthorized international operators.

Thus far, New Jersey, Delaware and Mississippi have launched fully-fledged sports betting markets within their borders, although almost half the country’s states have either introduced or passed sports wagering bills of their own. These include Ohio’s neighboring states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky, adding a greater sense of urgency for Ohio to follow suit, or else face the prospect of losing out to its nearest competitors.