Senator John Eklund

  • Senate Bill 111 that would make sports betting legal in Ohio is still on the table until the end of the year.
  • This legislation comes with an 8% tax rate, a cap of 22 operators for an allowance of 2 licensed brands at each of their 11 casino and retail locations, and no mandate for the use of official league data.
  • Both retail and mobile sportsbooks would become legal in the Buckeye State should OH SB 111 pass in 2020.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio has two sports betting bills still up for discussion in their lame-duck session, and on Wednesday, Senate Bill 111 which would legalize gambling on sporting events in the state was heard in the Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator John Eklund, still believes the bill still has time to pass.

No definitive answers were seen pertaining to where the future of sports gaming lies in the Buckeye State for anyone who watched the hearing awaiting some sort of push in either a favorable or unfavorable direction.

LegalSportsBetting spoke to Senator Eklund on the matter in search of such answers for the people of Ohio.

Speaking To Senator Eklund On Senate Bill 111

There were no conclusions made as to where Senate Bill 111 stands during Wednesday’s hearing as that was done intentionally per Eklund because there has been nothing finalized enough to draw any conclusions.

The reason for the hearing was primarily to reintroduce the committee to the bill. During these reintroductions, OH SB 111 had written testimony from iDevelopment and Economic Association, Boyd Gaming Corporation, MGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Penn National Gaming all in favor of legal sports betting and the passage of this piece of legislation in Ohio.

One company, Jack Entertainment, had their Vice President Adam Suliman in attendance to speak on their behalf, also standing in support of Senate Bill 111.

“It was really a matter of reintroducing the committee to the bill and get them back into the thinking that we can do this, so let’s perk up and get it ready to go,” said Eklund to LegalSportsBetting.

Plenty of work has been going on behind closed doors for drafts of OH SB 111 to tweak it. This would have typically been done during Committees’ in the Spring and Summer months but the Coronavirus Pandemic slowed down the progress of everything and resulted in private meetings to keep the wheels spinning, even if at a slower pace.

The people of Ohio figured that the House Bill, OH HB 194, for sports betting legalization would have been the bill to move forward but the focus at the moment is on the Senate bill instead.

House Bill 194 made more progress in the sense that it was passed out of the House but it hasn’t made much progress since. However, the sponsors of the House Bill and the sponsors of the Senate Bill have been working very hard in these last eight or nine weeks trying to come up with a schematic that we feel would be acceptable to both the House and the Senate for passage,” said Eklund.

 

“Although, we have avoided making any decision about whether these ideas we’re working on will proceed through the Senate Bill or through the House Bill.”

Eklund believes there is enough time to pass his bill into law to make wagering on sporting events a legal pastime in the state of Ohio before the end of the year, which will mark the end of the lame-duck session.

This also would mark the end of the line for OH SB 111 as it cannot crossover into the 2021 session if it does not get approval this year.

“There hasn’t been much progress since January on either bill, at least extensively, but there has been progress on the concept of sports gaming in Ohio and I’m pleased enough with that progress to be able to say “Yes, I do think there is still time to get this done this year,” said Eklund.

According to the Senator, there is no set number of hearings for the six weeks left in the session which means they could hold any number of meetings to get this bill passed and he and his team will “play the hand they’re dealt” pun intended in order to do so.

Amendments will still need to be made to OH SB 111 prior to it moving toward becoming law this year and although that can take a bit of time, Eklund says the amendment process is seemingly quick unless they’re contested but he gave no indication that any changes currently being written in the draft will see roadblocks.

One positive thing he’s noticed is the lack of oppositional noise regarding sports betting legalization as of late.

“I have not been hearing a lot of loud protests against the concept of sports gaming in Ohio lately. That’s not to say there are not people out there who are still opposed but I’m hopeful that what we ultimately come out with will go a long way towards at least making those who have opposed it in the past feel a bit better. We are trying to be comprehensive and mindful of those who have objected in the past and we’ll see what happens soon. But I think we’ve done some good in terms of addressing their concerns.”

When asked about whether or not the Coronavirus Pandemic is playing a role in a push for sports betting legalization for the potential revenue it would bring to the Buckeye State, Eklund does not think the virus has been a huge factor for any progress that’s been made.

He doesn’t feel there is enough known about how much the sports wagering industry could bring in realistically for Ohio or how much the state needs for COVID-19 to serve as a pivotal reason to pass his legislation.

“There has been an appetite for sports gaming in Ohio for some time, predating the Coronavirus Pandemic. And in all honesty, no one can really say how much revenue this exercise would generate and that’s honesty right there. Nobody really knows what the fiscal condition of the state will be in the beginning of next year as we go through the process of developing an operating budget. So, whatever the amount of the revenue is, it would be a little disingenuous to suggest that sports gaming is going to save the state of Ohio’s budget when A. We don’t know that and B. We don’t know how much saving the budget is going to need,” said Eklund.

The Outlook For Ohio Sports Betting Legalization In 2020

The Senator is very hopeful about the trajectory of OH SB 111 in the final weeks of 2020. The bill could jump all of the necessary hurdles as the year winds down, having the ability to be signed into law before Ohio rings in the new year. If that happens, 2021 would mark a legal sports betting industry launch in the Buckeye State.

“If the bill passes, I think legal sports betting in Ohio could launch in 2021, I do. It won’t go into effect for 90 days after (if) it’s signed by the Governor so assuming that to be late December, that would land at the end of March for the law to take effect. And I would like to think that during those 90 days some good work could be done in preparing the rules and regulations which will, of course, have to be prepared and put in place,” said Eklund.

A lot of work still has to be done but it’s nothing that can’t be done. Sports bettors in Ohio could have more to celebrate on New Year’s Eve than just the traditional holiday itself. They could be welcoming legal sportsbooks in along with the new year.

“There are some open issues based on the conversations that House members and Senate members have had over the course of the last eight or nine weeks,” said Eklund. “If we had started to get into all of the details on Wednesday, our attention would’ve been focused on our differences rather than our common goals and common concepts so we will probably do more of that the next time the Committee meets, which maybe next week but probably not, being its Thanksgiving week, so perhaps the week after. We shall overcome. Stay tuned.”

News tags: | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |