Ohio Sports Betting Bill to Go Before House Conference Panel on Wednesday

Posted on: December 7, 2021, 04:02h. 

Last updated on: December 8, 2021, 08:54h.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but we may be nearing a deal on sports betting in Ohio.

Ohio State
Brutus Buckeye, the Ohio State University mascot, celebrates during the school’s football game with Army in 2017. On Wednesday, Buckeyes fans and other sports fans in Ohio may have more to celebrate if a House committee approves a bill containing language that would legalize sports betting. (Image: USMA/Flickr.com)

The state House of Representatives Conference Committee has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday morning to hold a hearing and possibly vote on House Bill 29. The agenda also mentions possible amendments to the bill.

HB29 is the legislation the state Senate amended in June to insert sports betting language in hopes of getting a deal reached before the legislature adjourned for summer recess. When that didn’t happen, leaders from both chambers created a conference committee in late October to hammer out details and reach an agreement.

Reports of a breakthrough came out last week. On Monday, state Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, told WHBC-AM he expects it to go for a vote in both the House and Senate this week.

We’ve got everything staged up,” he said. “Now, I can’t get into the details because we got the concepts that we’ve worked out, and now we’re working with the Legislative Service Commission to make sure they’re in the legal form they need to be.”

If all goes well, floor votes in both chambers could happen in the near future. The Ohio Legislature’s calendar shows House sessions scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday afternoons this week. The Senate is also slated to meet Wednesday and on Dec. 15.

Ohio Sports Betting Would Start by 2023

The final version of that bill, which was in HB29, allowed for the Ohio Casino Control Commission to regulate the activity. It allows for 40 retail sportsbooks, up to 25 mobile applications, and some liquor permit holders to offer kiosks at their locations.

That bill also called for retail sportsbooks to be located in a county with at least 100,000 residents. Counties with a population exceeding 400,000 can have three retail sportsbooks, while the state’s three largest counties can each have five. Those would be hosted by the state’s casinos, racinos (which are regulated by the state lottery), and professional sports franchises. The retail license holder would also be allowed to operate an online app.

It remains to be seen how much of all that will be in the new bill. But last week, state Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati)  told Ohio’s Statehouse News that all parties in the gaming industry were included. Seitz also told the news site that the goal is to launch sports betting no later than Jan. 1, 2023.

“We want to be sure to give the Casino Control Commission adequate time to do all of the vetting that they are charged with doing under this bill, and we want to make sure also that everyone starts at the same starting point,” he told Statehouse News. “We’re not going to have some people get to market quicker than other people. That’s not fair. We’re all going to start at the same starting point.”

Schuring told the Canton radio station that one of the main reasons why the legislation has taken so long to get to this point has been negotiations with “intensely competitive” stakeholders in the gaming market. He said it was like trying to reach an agreement with the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Michigan Wolverines, the Boston Red Sox, and the New York Yankees.

Some Still Prefer Lottery Control

This isn’t the first time state lawmakers have tried to pass a sports betting bill. Last year, separate bills emerged in both chambers. The House passed a version granting the Lottery Commission authority over sports betting. But that bill never got a hearing in the Senate.

In addition, the Senate’s own bill never progressed either before the session ended. And when that happened, it required new bills to be submitted for the two-year session that started earlier this year.

While it appears there’s now consensus, not everyone agrees with the direction things appear to be headed.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, who is running to be the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in next year’s election, believes that sports betting in the state should be ubiquitous, according to a statement on his campaign’s Facebook page. That means the lottery should control sports betting, which would generate more money for Ohio’s schools.

“Ohio has more than 10k small businesses that already sell Lottery products. These businesses are scattered all over the state and are still suffering from the pandemic. Letting them share in the sports betting bounty would help all regions of Ohio,” Cranley said.