The arrest of Larry Householder could put up another road block in Ohio’s efforts to legalize sports betting.
The powerful GOP politician has been Ohio’s Speaker of the House since January 2019.
Federal authorities arrested Householder and five others on the morning of July 21.
Ever since then, everything that he’s had a hand in during his time in the state’s legislature is being called into question.
That includes the House’s sports betting bill, which recently moved on to the Senate after months of a standstill. With the bill already under the microscope, Householder’s arrest is drawing some unwanted attention.
Householder arrested for bribery
So what did Householder allegedly do?
The short answer: he took bribes from energy companies. The long answer: well, that’s a little more complicated.
Shortly after he became speaker, Householder started an aggressive campaign to bail out two nuclear power plants in Ohio.
The $1.3 billion plan was a controversial one, with Householder managing to squeeze it in at the last minute.
According to prosecutors, Householder’s campaign for the bailout was one of the results of a $60 million bribery scheme.
The money allegedly came from Akron-based Energy Harbor, which owns the two power plants.
The idea is that Householder has been receiving payments of $250,000 each quarter for some time now.
Allegedly, those payments helped him rise to power in the state, and as a thank you, Householder bailed out the power plants.
US Attorney David DeVillers says he’s never seen a case like this before in Ohio.
“This is likely the largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio. This was bribery, plain and simple. This was a quid pro quo. This was pay to play.”
Energy Harbor also allegedly funneled around $38 million to Householder’s nonprofit group Generation Now, plus over $500,000 that went directly into his personal accounts.
With all of this going on, Householder’s work in the House is being reexamined. Since he was a big supporter of the House’s sports betting bill, that bill could now find itself on the chopping block.
What’s next for Ohio sports betting?
Right now, Ohio has two different sports betting bills on the docket. One has the Senate’s support, the other has the House’s.
The difference between the two comes down to who would regulate the industry, and where the money would go.
The House bill wants the Ohio Lottery Commission to oversee sports betting, with the money heading into education. The Senate bill wants the Ohio Casino Control Commission to run the show, with the money dropping into Ohio’s general revenue fund.
Gov. Mike DeWine supports the Senate bill. The scale might be tipping in its favor now that the Householder situation is leading to extra questioning of the House’s bill.
Originally, the goal was to have a finalized bill on DeWine’s desk by this fall. That’s looking more and more unlikely as the weeks go on.
The next step in the process is for the Senate to hold hearings on the two bills during one of its sessions.
The last session was held on July 21, the same day that Householder was arrested. The Senate made no sports betting progress that day.
The next chance to get the ball rolling will be at the Senate’s sessions on Aug. 18 and 19.
Indiana’s eastern neighbor is in limbo until then. Hopefully for gamblers in the state, the Senate will be able to take some steps towards legalization in the coming months.