• Ohio will have a sports betting bill drafted and introduced to the legislature in April.
  • The Senate Select Committee on Gaming will draw up a bill for legalizing a sports wagering industry in Ohio after they finish hearing testimony from various speakers on the topic.
  • Professional leagues in the state are in favor of a sports betting market and want to be included with the option of having a license to run an operation of their own through any bill passed.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio is two meetings away from drafting a sports betting bill for the 2021 session. The Senate Select Committee on Gaming met on Wednesday to hear testimony from both sides of the spectrum for legalizing sports wagering like they’ve been doing since the beginning of the year. As has been the case since these meetings started, reasons were brought forth by speakers on why the industry should be legal in Ohio and why it should not.

The entire purpose for creating the Senate Select Committee on Gaming in Ohio for the 2021 session was to have a committee solely focused on gaming in order to make the best proposal moving forward for the market in the state.

The 2020 session found what sponsors called the right balance of details in one draft proposal that would appease all sides; however, the clock ran out on the session before a decision could be made and the bill ultimately died.

What’s Being Said For Ohio Legal Sports Betting

Wednesday’s hearing brought some key points that the committee will mull over when drawing up a bill for legal sports gaming. To sum it up, professional sports organizations in the state are in favor of making a legal sports betting industry available in Ohio.

“We would like to see legalized sports betting in Ohio as soon as possible, and would suggest that the legislation include a concrete and accelerated timeline for regulatory implementation. Of course, we do not want to rush the process in any way that would result in a negative outcome, and it is critical that we have appropriate integrity and consumer protections, along with the optimal market structure,” said Ted Tywang, from the Haslam Sports Group, Representing the Cleveland Browns and Columbus Crew. “To summarize, we cannot continue to allow the illegal marketplace to thrive and have tax and commercial benefits leave our state by delaying the inevitable. We want legalized sports betting to be done right and as quickly as possible.”

The Buckeye State would like to see sports betting for land-based venues and mobile sportsbook platforms. Brian Sells, the CFO for the Cincinnati Bengals was in attendance to say that teams would like the opportunity to have licenses to operate sportsbooks at stadiums and arenas so fans could wager on the games while on the premises watching them. But that idea isn’t set in stone as he said teams are also open to having a simple mobile sportsbook license – they just want to be included in the market as other teams in the nation have been given the opportunity to be.

Rick Ohanian, representing sports gaming in general, went before the committee to say that having betting slips available at lottery retailers like the local grocery store would be beneficial for an Ohio legal sports betting market. He estimates hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue would be seen should this be part of the bill proposal drafted by the committee.

Opposition was heard by the Inter-University Council of Ohio where their President, Bruce Johnson, was present to speak on behalf of the 14 schools in the state with athletic programs. Johnson said with the number of mental health issues that plague the country already, adding the pressure of gambling on games to student-athletes could further spread problems with their own mental health.

While that was the main focus of his point to exclude Ohio collegiate sports betting, he ended his testimony with a simple line to tie his argument together:

“Sports betting also demeans the competition and competitors alike by spreading a message that is contrary to the purpose and meaning of sport.’”

There are two more hearings before the committee takes a break to go over the mountains of information received from the multiple meetings they’ve held. When they reconvene April 20, a sports betting bill to have legal sports betting in Ohio will be ready. Chairman of the committee, Senator Kirk Schuring said that a bill will be introduced in April and it will be a compilation of all the testimony heard.

The Ohio Legislature will be in session for the entire year, adjourning on December 31. This gives both chambers more than enough time to iron out any kinks in the upcoming bill and approve it for passage to finally allow sports bettors in the Buckeye State to gamble on sports using state-sanctioned options.

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