Featured in this article:
- A new Select Committee on Gaming Introduced its Sportsbook Bill.
- The New Bill Grants Authority to the Ohio Casino Control Commission.
- Debate Between Casino Commission and State Lottery Sunk Previous Bills.
After much consideration, today a collection of Ohio Senators introduced a bill to regulate Ohio sportsbooks. Following years of promising starts and crushing failures, lawmakers took a different path in 2021. A group of legislators formed the bipartisan Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming. The Select Committee’s goal is to avoid the lobbying squabbles that doomed previous Ohio sportsbook bills. Whether it succeeds remains to be seen.
Who Will Control the Ohio Sportsbook?
In past years, lawmakers differed on who should control regulated sportsbooks. Some supported run
ning betting through the Ohio Lottery. An opposing faction believed the Ohio Casino Control Commission is better suited to governing regulated sportsbooks. The differences were not necessarily bipartisan. Republicans control both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion in Ohio. But each of the three leaders had differing ideas on how to run sportsbooks.
The Select Committee on Gaming held nine hearings and heard from nearly 50 witnesses before writing its bill. Their decision? Their bill grants the Casino Control Commission regulatory authority over all potential Ohio sportsbooks.
What Would Regulated Ohio Sportsbooks Look Like?
Ohio currently features four full-service, land-based casinos. Each is located in one of the state’s biggest cities: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo. There are also racinos that feature live parimutuel racing, simulcasting, and slot parlors. Under the Select Committee bill, all these locations could build retail sportsbooks. Similarly, they could partner with operators to provide mobile and online wagering throughout the state.
The bill authorizes up to 20 Class A licenses for the casinos and racinos. Each Class A license would last three years and cost $1 million. However, each location would need a separate Class A license for retail and online sportsbooks. Therefore, the 20 total licenses could be covered by the state’s existing casinos and racinos.
Another 20 Class B licenses will be available for places like sports bars that cannot “bank a bet” themselves. It is unclear if Ohio’s professional teams would be slotted into the Class A or Class B license market. They are not guaranteed an Ohio sportsbook license under this proposal.
Standing Out in a Crowded Market
The bill sponsored by State Senator Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) taxes Ohio sportsbook revenue at just 10%. Every state that borders Ohio, except Kentucky, already offers regulated sportsbooks, including mobile betting. The low tax rate may induce bettors into Ohio, especially from Pennsylvania, where operators pay a steep 36%. No matter if and when this new bill passed, no sportsbooks would launch prior to summer 2022.
The Casino Control Commission would determine what bets regulated Ohio sportsbooks could take. Though college bets likely will be allowed, it is unclear whether betting on in-state teams would be banned.
Proponents of the lottery model will still argue their plan is superior. This new regulated Ohio sportsbook bill provides a lot of benefits to urban casinos and racinos. The state lottery could set up machines throughout the state, similar to its Keno operations. But statewide mobile betting allows bettors to place a wager no matter where they are located. However, who would directly profit from these bets, outside of the state government, is not particularly transparent.
The Select Committee introducing its long-awaited bill is the first step towards regulated Ohio sportsbooks in 2021. Still, opposition and debate at the statehouse will be fierce. Reaching the level of consensus needed to send a bill to the governor still has numerous hurdles to overcome. And then, he must be willing to sign the legislation. It was 2018 when Governor DeWine infamously stated regulated betting is “coming to Ohio.” Over three years later, Ohioans are still waiting.