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Ohio Lawmakers Pursue Legalization of Sports Betting with Serious Debates

At the time when Ohio Senator Kirk Schuring announced plans to pursue the legalization of sports betting in the state, he also warned casino operators not to expect any special treatment.

In an apparent reference to a ballot initiative in 2009, under which the four casinos in the state were established, Senator Schuring explained the Legislature of Ohio does not plan to prescribe special considerations for such entities into law as it was done years to provide them with some special privileges. He further noted that local lawmakers will work with the operators but will also leave them to compete in the Ohio market.

At the time when the 2009 constitutional amendment was rolled out, casino owners in Ohio were guaranteed that four venues will be allowed within the state borders. Local legislators, who had blocked efforts to make casino gambling legal for years, considered the ballot initiative as a way for them to secure a more favorable regime for the gambling sector.

Now, more than ten years later, casinos in Ohio seek a chunk of the sports betting sector but state lawmakers are more cautious of providing preferential treatment to them.

Ohio Not to Provide Special Treatment to Sports Betting License Applicants

Under the provisions of Senate Bill 176, Ohio-based casinos and racinos would have been prevented from providing sports betting on their premises. However, the supporters of the gambling expansion proposal eventually succeeded to persuade legislators to remove that language from the proposed piece of legislation.

As part of the proposed bill, casinos in Ohio would not be guaranteed any sports betting licenses. However, they are considered able to monetize on the new form of gambling, so they will probably get the licenses. The sports betting permits will cost operators $1 million and will be granted for 3-year periods.

The ballot initiative from twelve years ago has been very important for the conversations in 2021. Senator Niraj Antani commented on the constitutional amendment, saying that it was not done in a way backing the free market and that has to change. He, along with Senator Nathan Manning, is one of the sponsors of Senate Bill 176 that is seeking to make sports betting legal in Ohio.

The long-lasting dispute between the state’s House and Senate regarding the watchdog that would regulate sports betting in Ohio is one of the major setbacks that has been preventing the legalization of the new form of gambling here. The dispute, however, now seems to be resolved, with the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) given the power to regulate most gambling in the state and the Ohio Lottery Commission overseeing sports pools.

Local casinos and racinos backed the OCCC to be the body in charge of sports betting in the state. The companies that are expected to be the major players in the sports betting sector are Hard Rock, JACK Entertainment and Penn National.

Ohio Casinos Support Ohio Casino Control Commission as Regulator of Sports Betting

Local casinos were the ones that won the most in 2009 when Ohio residents voted in favor of the legalization of casino gambling across the state. At the time, the casino operators promised not only to create more jobs but also to provide tax revenue of more than $650 on an annual basis to the state as part of the conditions to pass Issue 3 following the failure of some other ballot initiatives on the issue.

Tax revenue, however, has not managed to reach the aforementioned mark and brought only $278 million in the fiscal year 2019. According to data provided by the Ohio Department of Taxation, this followed with an even shier result of $209 million in the fiscal year 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and the Covid-19-associated closures.

The eight professional sports franchises in the state of Ohio and the PGA Tour’s Memorial Tournament backed the OCCC as the regulator of the sports betting sector. They also called for the authorities to limit online sports betting licenses to their nine organizations and the eleven casinos and racinos that already exist on the territory of the state. The supporters of the Lottery Commission have been willing to see it regulate the new form of gambling in the state. One of the key supporters of the suggestion of the lottery controlling sports betting services in Ohio has been Intralot.

Residents of Ohio Could Spend About $600 Million of Sports Betting Every Year, According to Estimates

Since the 2018 decision of the US Supreme Court to sports betting legal, a large number of states have taken steps in order to capitalize on the new form of gambling. Ohio, however, has fallen behind almost all of its neighboring states and has still not set up rules to legalize and regulate the practice. The reason for this has not been a lack of interest.

In 2020, a House bill aimed at legalizing sports betting attracted over 160 lobbyists from 93 different trade organizations, companies and universities. Unfortunately, despite the support for the proposed piece of legislation, legislators were unable to bring the measure to life. Now, they are aimed at making sure that the competition in the potential sports betting sector will be kept intact.

According to expectations, the residents of Ohio could spend almost $600 million on both in-person and online sports betting services on an annual basis. This prospect undoubtedly looks particularly attractive to representatives of casino operators, professional sports teams and other companies that could be involved in the provision of sports betting on the territory of the state.

That might also be the reason why Ohio lawmakers have refused to make details of the sports betting bill public, and even lobbyists who were close to the process knew little about the proposal before it was officially unveiled earlier in May 2021. One of the co-authors of the sports betting proposal, Senator Schuring, has been refusing to meet with anyone privately before the bill was testified in public first.

Considering the prominence of the new form of gambling that was officially permitted in the country under the 2018 ruling of the US Supreme Court, a chance for corruption also occurred. This could also be a reason why Ohio lawmakers have been very careful when it comes to the provision of more extensive information on the proposed bill.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.