Kasich Signs Fantasy Sports Bill; Ohio Becomes 18th State With Law

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Kasich Ohio DFS

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed a bill legalizing paid-entry daily fantasy sports in the state. According to lobbyists familiar with the bill, the governor enacted it into law today.

Kasich’s state becomes the 18th in the country (and third-largest) to enact a DFS law.

The details of Ohio’s DFS law

Ohio’s DFS law is similar to that passed in most other states.

Here are a few of the highlights:

In the concurrence hearing for the bill, Rep. Jonathan Dever seemed content to see his bill reach the finish line. “We worked very, very diligently for a couple years to make this work.”

Dever’s arguments focused on the consumer protection aspect of the legislation:

What we’re really trying to do here is to allow the 1.9 million Ohioans that are currently engaging in fantasy sports a path to continue to do what they’re doing. But protect the money they’re putting in there. And also [provide] some consumer protections, some controls on the industry itself.

The path to DFS legalization in Ohio

Ohio first started having the DFS conversation in 2016. In a memo to the General Assembly, Attorney General Mike DeWine suggested it address the lack of clarity in the state’s laws. Earlier this year, a DFS lobbyist suggested Ohio passing a law was almost a foregone conclusion.

The legislative process began swiftly thereafter with a pair of competing bills in the Senate. One was favorable to DFS and one was not.

Sen. Bill Coley’s was the latter, calling fantasy sports contests “schemes of chance.” Sen. David Burke’s bill was the former, and neither advanced to a vote before the legislative calendar ran out on 2016.

The issue of DFS was put in the hands of the House of Representatives to hammer out the details.

Reps. Dever and Rob McColley took up the cause in 2017, presenting H 132 for consideration in March. The bill was nearly identical to Burke’s, and it passed in May with a lopsided 82-15 vote.

The bill was introduced to the Senate the next day, and it advanced through committee hearings there, too. The Senate voted in November, passing the bill 25-4 to send it back to the House for concurrence. It concurred, putting the final version on the Governor’s desk.

States in which DFS is now legal

Ohio’s law makes it the 18th state in the country to legalize paid-entry fantasy sports.

Connecticut also has a DFS law on the books, but it requires tribal approval prior to activation.

Could legal sports betting follow in Ohio?

As with DFS, the number of states with legal sports betting is growing.

New Jersey is challenging PASPA in the US Supreme Court, seeking to strike down the federal sports betting ban that has stood since 1992. Several states, including Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Mississippi and New York have passed laws which could legalize sports betting pending a favorable outcome.

In a conversation with Legal Sports Report, Rep. Dever laughed when the topic of sports betting in Ohio came up. He didn’t dismiss the notion, though, revealing that the first conversations are already taking place.

Quite frankly, I’ve been focused on this [bill]. I wanted to get this one done. But Senator Coley has encouraged me to get up to speed in those areas. He indicated that it’s his belief we have more to do in the space.

Coley was one of four senators who voted against Dever’s bill on the floor, so it’s interesting to note that he’s the one driving the early chatter.

As in many states, though, Ohio sports betting is going to be a complicated legal issue to tackle. The state’s constitution explicitly prohibits bookmaking, for starters. It also prohibits gambling, though, and that was amended through the Revised Code.

Dever said that much of the framework required to regulate sports betting is already built, but it’s too early to gauge legislators’ pulse on the issue.