Proposal Increases Momentum for Ohio Sports Betting

Ohio representatives Dave Greenspan and Brigid Kelly have boosted the state’s chances of seeing legal and regulated sports betting through the introduction of a new bill.

House Bill 149 comes just one month after Senators John Eklund and Sean O’Brien put introduced a separate bill, SB 111. The latter will allow the state’s casinos and racinos to offer sports betting, while the newest proposal calls for the Ohio Lottery Commission to regulate the industry in Ohio.

Senate Bill 111 has been teetering in the past few weeks, and it has not been put before any committees so far. The hope of legal sports betting in Ohio in the near future has now been bolstered through the Greenspan/Kelly bill.

Inside House Bill 149

Here’s a quick look at what HB 149 proposes:

  • The authors of the bill call for the creation of an 11-member Sports Gaming Advisory Bill.
  • Allow the seven racinos and four casinos to offer sports betting.
  • Veteran and fraternal organizations in Ohio will also be allowed to offer wagering.
  • Casinos and racinos will pay $100,000 per year for license fees.
  • Social organizations will pay $1,000 per year.
  • 10% of revenues after expenses will go towards the state.
  • 2% of the money that goes to the state will be earmarked for gambling addiction help.
  • The other 98% will be used to fund education.
  • Gamblers will be allowed to bet on professional and college sports or athletic events.
  • The Ohio Lottery Commission will be allowed to share data with major professional leagues and National Collegiate Athletic Associations.
  • The sponsors hope that the state will generate some $30 million in revenue in the beginning.
  • After online and mobile sports betting is allowed, this could double to $60 million and even reach $100 million.

Who Controls What in Ohio Today?

As the situation stands today, the Ohio Lottery Commission receives proceeds that are generated from the state’s seven racinos. Revenue comes from video lottery terminals and slot machines at the tracks.  In the 2018 fiscal year, the lottery received $330.4 million of the racinos’ revenue.

Prior to introducing HB 149, Rep Greenspan requested the Ohio Legislative Service Commission examine whether the state’s Constitution prohibits the Lottery from establishing and regulating a sports betting framework.

The state’s four casinos are regulated by the Ohio Casino Control Commission. Last year, they generated just under $840 million in revenue, with the state collecting around $275 million in taxes.

Comparing the Two Ohio Sports Betting Proposals

What are the similarities and what are the differences between HB 149 – the latest proposal – and Senate Bill 111?

For one, they both aim to bring legal sports betting at the 11 casinos and racinos in Ohio.

The similarities, however, end there.

HB 149 does not address the very pertinent question of online or mobile betting, while SB 111 specifically says it will be allowed.

HB 149 places regulation under the responsibility of the Ohio Lottery, while SB 111 wants to see the Ohio Casino Control Commission regulate the industry.

Rep. John Eklund told Cleveland.com: “I think there is a palpable difference between lottery games and sports gaming.”

He said the Casino Commission has “an incredible level of expertise and knowledge about how to do it, how to do it safely and how to do it right.”

Eklund also stressed the importance of including mobile betting since more and more people are betting online in Ohio and actively seeking unregulated offshore providers.

“Will it encourage people with a gambling problem to go out there and gamble?” he asked. “This activity already goes on in the United States of America through off-shore sports gaming sites… If somebody has a gambling problem, I feel very badly for them and their families. But if online gaming is what they want to feed their addiction, there is plenty of it out there.”

A recent op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch makes the case for the Casino Control Commission being the best entity to regulate sports betting. The newspaper says it is skeptical that legalized sports betting will be a good thing for Ohio in general, but since it seems that the industry eventually be legalized, it hopes that lawmakers will set up the best possible regulations.

The Dispatch concludes the Senate bill’s approach is a much better fit for the state and the Casino Commission is better suited to handle it.

Funding Public Education in Ohio

Speaking on HB 149, Rep Greenspan said the bill is intended to provide additional funding for public education in Ohio.

“The format and structure of the bill provides clarity as to the authority overseeing sport betting in Ohio while providing flexibility to address opportunities and challenges facing this newly legalized industry,” he said.

Ohio is Behind in the Race

If Ohio wants to keep up with its neighboring states and regulate its sports betting industry, it needs to work fast. Already, the Buckeye State is behind in the race as it is one of the only Northwest Territories which has failed to move ahead with sports betting legalization since the Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 last year.

West Virginia and Pennsylvania are already offering legalized sports betting options to their residents. Meanwhile, Kentucky and Indiana aren’t far off either with relevant bills moving swiftly through their legal pipelines.