The Ohio Legislature

  • Ohio still has no sports betting bill in 2021, a week late from the date that one was supposed to be introduced to the Ohio Legislature.
  • Any proposal for a sports wagering industry in the Buckeye State will include retail and mobile sportsbooks.
  • Lawmakers have said that a bill should be coming within the next few weeks, once a regulator of the market can be decided on.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio was supposed to have a sports betting bill drawn up and introduced by April 21, however, a week later and no such bill has been introduced to the Ohio Legislature. It’s a perplexing situation because as far as lawmakers are concerned, a regulated sports gaming industry is something that they all want for the Buckeye State.

Governor Mike DeWine himself is a known advocate for the market but where is the legislation behind it?

What Is The Problem For Advancing Sports Gaming In Ohio?

In 2020, Ohio was close to getting a regulated sports betting industry but the clock ran out on the session before a bill was able to pass in both chambers. In 2021, the legislature decided to create the Senate Select Committee on Gaming (SSCG) to focus specifically on the subject.

The SSCG held nine weeks of hearings beginning in January to get the opinions of everyone in the state, from residents to business owners, in order to get a full view of the best way to tackle a potential Ohio sports gaming market. The last hearing was held on March 31 where the committee adjourned for three weeks to comb over the endless amount of information and draw up a bill for sports betting that would be most beneficial for Ohio.

Originally, they were supposed to come back with legislation on April 21, yet they’ve surpassed that deadline, but why? It’s simple. The same problem from 2020 that was cleared up too late in the session, now plagues a new year and a new measure. With most things agreed upon, there is still the minor detail of who will be named as the regulator of the market.

The two choices are the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) and the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC). Sports leagues in Ohio back the OCCC as the regulator for sports betting. The casinos and racinos, totaling eleven in the state would get sportsbooks as well as the ten league stadiums for a combined 21 retail sports wagering venues in Ohio. Not to mention, mobile sports betting platforms statewide.

The OLC would work differently if they were to be named the regulator for the market in the Buckeye State. Any lottery retailer statewide could offer sports wagers, including bars and bowling alleys or other businesses as they’d only need to be set up with a terminal provided by the OLC at their establishment to run a sportsbook. Mobile sportsbooks would be included in this scenario as well.

So What Happens Now?

A sports wagering bill needs to be drawn up soon. The Ohio Legislature is in session until the end of the year but Ohio cannot wait until the very end as they did in 2020 to come out empty-handed in the end. Both proposals are very appealing but which is best suited for Ohioans? Therein lies the problem for the SSCG and lawmakers in charge of coming up with the proposal.

“I put together 200 bullet points on just the rules, regulations, and governance,” said Senator Kirk Schuring.“And last week I met several times over, several hours with Senate President Matt Huffman. On Wednesday of last week, we finally got to the point where we offered language to the Legislative Service Commission, so the bill is actually being drafted right now.

I expect it to come back from the Legislative Service Commission this week and we’ll introduce it soon. I think we’re going to have to have a press conference before we introduce it, just so I can explain exactly what it does and does not do. But, it’s coming, it’s going to be before the select committee on gaming here in the very near future.”

Sports bettors can rest assured that regulated sports betting will be coming to Ohio, as soon as those in charge can figure out who will be in charge of it, of course.

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