Ohio is finally ready to make some progress toward legal sports betting.
After months of moving at a crawl, the state’s House of Representatives passed a sports betting bill last month.
However, that House bill has a ways to go before it can become law.
First, it has to get past a competing bill from Ohio’s Senate. Although both bills would legalize sports betting, they differ on the details.
The House bill favors education
Under the House’s bill, sports betting would have a 10% tax rate in Ohio.
The bill plans on using most of the tax revenue to help fund K-12 public school education throughout the state. A smaller chunk of the money would go toward prevention and treatment programs for gambling addiction.
The House wants the Ohio Lottery Commission to oversee sports betting in the state. Its bill would give the commission that regulatory power.
For State Rep. Brigid Kelly, one of the House bill’s sponsors, it’s all about keeping money from Ohio’s residents within the state’s economy.
“So Ohioans who want to wager on sports have to go spend their money somewhere else in another state. Well it’s either that or they call ‘their guy’, or that’s how I understand it. But we can change that.”
Some of the pushback that the House bill has received is due to how the bill would use sports betting data.
The bill would require sportsbooks to use official league data, with the idea that such data would protect the integrity of betting as much as possible.
However, sports leagues have been pushing for that detail to be included in the bill from the start. If sportsbooks in Ohio have to use official league data, that means they’ll have to purchase it directly from sports leagues.
That’s a situation that the Senate bill is looking to avoid altogether.
Gov. DeWine supports the Senate sports betting bill
The process of bringing sports betting to Ohio has been going on for over a year.
Back in May 2019, Gov. DeWine voiced his support for the Senate bill after hearing both pitches.
However, since then, he’s mostly stepped out of the way. With the state government running its course naturally, things have taken a while.
Under the Senate bill, sports betting would be taxed at a 6.25% rate. That’s lower than the House’s proposed 10% rate, and for the sake of comparison, also lower than Indiana’s 9.5% tax rate on sports betting.
The Senate bill would use that tax revenue to help bolster Ohio’s general revenue fund. That fund pays for the basic day-day operations of the state.
One of the biggest differences between the Senate and the House bill is over who would regulate the industry. The Senate bill would have the Ohio Casino Control Commission take the reins.
That would give Ohio a similar setup to Indiana in terms of regulation, since the same regulatory body would be governing both sports betting and the state’s casinos.
What’s next for Ohio’s sports betting bills?
Since the House bill has moved out of committee and passed, the next step is to try and elbow its way through the state Senate. That will obviously be an uphill battle, since the Senate favors its own bill.
Ohio’s legislature isn’t up to much this month. However, July could be a different story.
Depending on the schedule, the Senate could have a pair of sessions taking place on July 21-22. The July 22 session is set in stone, with the July 21 slate being left open in case the Senate needs more time.
However, there’s no guarantee that the Senate will hold any hearings for either bill during those sessions. The House would love to get its bill on DeWine’s desk by this fall, so that might end up working to push things in a different direction.
If the House really wants to make that happen, the sponsors of its bill might end up meeting with the Senate bill’s sponsors to iron out some of the differences. If they can agree on a new, unified bill, then the Senate could hold hearings for it in July in order to keep things on that fall timeline.
State Rep. Dave Greenspan, one of the House bill’s main sponsors, is optimistic that those talks will not only take place, but that the two sides will be able to come to an agreement.
“Absolutely, we’ll be able to come to a resolution on this. We just haven’t had an opportunity to have a robust discussion with the Senate yet. We’ve got to get this done and up and operating.”
It’s up in the air whether or not the Senate will be as eager to make progress this summer, but July could end up being a big step toward legalization if it is.