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Twenty states have some form of legal sports betting law. This series looks ahead to which states could have legislative action to regulate sports betting in 2020. Next up: Ohio.
There was a lot of action for Ohio sports betting in the state legislature last year, but it amounted to no movement.
Following eight hearings in the House Finance Committee, H 194 appeared set for a committee vote last November. But while neighbors Michigan and Indiana culminated their sessions by passing sports betting legislation, the bill stalled in Ohio.
Ohio has a two-year legislative session, which explains some of the lack of urgency. The legislature can pick up right where it left off.
Rep. Dave Greenspan tells Legal Sports Report that his OH sports betting bill is primed to advance through the House Finance Committee in the coming weeks.
“I believe the bill is ready for a vote and I’m not aware that we’re going to accept any more amendments,” Greenspan said. “We know we have the support. We’ve talked to members of the committee and a significant majority are in support of the bill. I’m not aware of any that are opposed.”
Two Ohio sports betting bills were introduced with different agencies taking charge.
In the Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. John Eklund, the Casino Control Commission (CCC) serves as regulator. The House bill pegs the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) to oversee sports betting in Ohio.
The legislators spent much of the year arguing the merits of each as the regulatory body, with government leaders taking sides.
Gov. Mike DeWine sided with the CCC, as did Senate President Larry Obhof. His counterpart, House Speaker Larry Householder, supports the OLC, which also has a key supporter on the Senate side in Sen. William Coley. Coley served as president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States over the past year.
Greenspan made his case again:
“At the end of the day, the consumer is not going to know the difference in who the regulator is. But I believe, with their infrastructure, that the Lottery Commission is in a better position to manage the start of sports betting and manage its long-term viability by adapting to the changing industry as it evolves.”
The Senate bill stayed quiet most of the year, getting one short hearing. The House had many hearings, including one in which Greenspan shot down professional sports leagues’ arguments for mandating that operators use official league data.
Once H 194 moves through the Finance Committee, a House vote could soon follow. Householder said the sports betting bill is among his priorities for 2020.
Greenspan sees it as advantageous to get the bill over to the Senate quickly to spark discussion on the differences between the bills in each chamber.
In addition to the difference in oversight, the House bill has a higher tax rate at 10% compared to 6.25% in the Senate bill. Proceeds in the House bill go to education, while the Senate directs money to the state general fund.
Each authorizes sports betting in Ohio at casinos and racinos, along with online and mobile. The House bill adds kiosks at state fraternal and veterans’ halls, and creates a central monitoring system for integrity issues.
Greenspan is optimistic that the chambers can come to an agreement.
“If you look at the two bills, they’re largely the same – about 90% the same,” Greenspan said. “The issues we’re going to be discussing, although significant, are not numerous.”
The Ohio legislative session runs the rest of the year.