Ohio House of Representatives

  • Ohio can still make sports betting a legal industry in the state for 2020 as the session ends at the end of the year.
  • House Bill 194 would make sports wagering legal and has seen the most progress within the House when compared to other bills on the subject.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Legislature will be entering their lame-duck session to finish out 2020, and sports betting legalization is still on the table. Two bills to make gambling on sporting events a reality in the Buckeye State are making their way through the various channels of the legislature, with House Bill 194 being the bill that has the best chances of the two to become law.

With 58 days left in the year, lawmakers will need to move fast to get a legal sports wagering industry in Ohio before the end of the session.

House Bill 194 In Its Current Form

Ohio House Bill 194 has been the favored bill in the Ohio Legislature and although the similarities between it and Senate Bill 111 are plenty, the subtle differences added up and had OH HB 194 continue on a positive trajectory through the House.

With the Coronavirus Pandemic being an ongoing situation, much of the work done to OH HB 194 has been done quietly as COVID-19 is the focal point for government officials in Ohio.

Based on the original proposals to make sports betting legal, the two bills differed in who would regulate the market. The House Bill wanted the Lottery Commission while the Senate Bill called on the Casino Control Commission (CCC).

Changes to OH HB 194 currently name both the lottery and the CCC as co-regulators of the sports wagering industry.

Another change seen from the initial documents is the tax rate. OH SB 111 had a tax rate of 6.25% while OH HB 194 set a 10% tax rate. The version of House Bill 194 that is expected to move forward now has a tax rate of 8%.

Each bill conveniently met in the middle.

By all accounts, any changes made to House Bill 194 are a clear melding of the two bills into one. They’ve compromised with the regulators and met in the middle for things like tax rate to come up with one bill that is favorable on both sides to become law.

Other changes that can be reviewed within the newest documents is the cap that no longer allows for 33 operators and now is open to 22, equating to two skins a piece instead of the original allowance of three.

Sportsbook product providers will continue to pay $10,000 in application fees for a license but will now pay $10,000 in renewal fees every three years, ridding the $1,000 annual fee that was within the first proposal.

The 0.25% excise tax is not a requirement anymore with lawmakers seeking to get rid of it via federal outlets. And offshore sportsbook employees that worked for these platforms prior to April 16, 2015, are eligible to work with Ohio sportsbooks.

Anyone that worked with those companies after that date is still ineligible to apply for employment in the sports betting industry of the Buckeye State.

All 22 businesses that would like to receive licenses to operate sports betting venues at casino and racino locations will need to pay a $100,000 application fee upfront. And as with the previous proposal, the use of official league data for wagers and odds is not a mandatory rule.

What’s Coming Up In Ohio?

With less than nine weeks left in the year, the Ohio Legislature will need to move quickly to make House Bill 194 legal.

While it may not seem like a big deal considering COVID-19 is still the focus, a legal sports betting industry in Ohio could bring in much-needed revenue rather than continue to lose it to neighboring states as is something that occurs and is well known by residents.

“Under our bill, the resources from sports betting would go toward education and with everything that has happened, in particular, related to COVID-19, we think it’s especially timely that there will be additional resources to go to that because there have been cuts to education,” said Representative Brigid Kelly, a sponsor to OH HB 194, to LegalSportsBetting in June.

Should Ohio move to legalize gambling on sporting events, a launch could happen sometime in 2021.

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