Legal Sports Report

Ohio Sports Betting Next Year? Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Legalize Wagering

Ohio sports betting

A new bill that would legalize Ohio sports betting surfaced in the state legislature on Thursday.

What we know about the Ohio sports betting effort

First reported by Cleveland.com, Sens. John Eklund and Sean O’Brien introduced the legislation. Interesting, one of them is a Republican and the other is a Democrat. Eklund is the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, a powerful position in any legislature.

The bill is currently a shell, with no real language about regulating the industry. You can see the bill here. Here is all it says:

Section 1. It is the intent of the General Assembly to develop and enact legislation legalizing sports wagering.

It appears to be the first time a bill to legalize sports wagering has appeared in the statehouse.

More from Cleveland.com:

“My thinking right now is we already have casinos and racinos set up,” O’Brien said. I’d kind of like to keep it in those institutions because they are set up for gaming. I’m not sure we want it in every 7-Eleven …and every bar.”

The senators also said they want to have a working bill later this summer or fall. The Ohio Legislature is in session for a short time in both August and September before returning for six days each in November and December, after elections.

The landscape in Ohio

Ohio, with a population of more than 11 million, would be a fairly large market for sports betting.

The state has a variety of land-based and race-track casinos, which, as O’Brien said, would be the likely target.

Ohio also has a lottery, but it’s not clear if it’s going to get involved in wagering. Lotteries have expressed different levels of interest in sports wagering around the country.

The changing landscape for US sports betting

So far in 2018, six states either already started taking legal bets or have plans to later this year. Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware all have active sports betting industries. Sports betting bills will draw a great deal of interest in state legislatures across the country in 2019, in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision in May that struck down the federal ban on sports gambling.

Two of Ohio’s neighboring states — West Virginia and Pennsylvania — could have legal wagering in place later this year. WV sports betting should launch in September.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.