Awaits Gov. DeWine’s signature

Ohio legislature passes sports betting bill; Casino Control Commission chosen as regulator

Ohio Statehouse.
2021-12-09
United States
Reading time 3:05 min

Ohio’s long road to sports betting could be reaching its end. Following years of negotiations and debate, legislators in the state have now passed a sports betting bill for the governor to sign. The deal was first approved on Wednesday by a 31-1 margin at the Senate, with the House also approving it shortly thereafter in a 72-12 voting.

While other states were able to launch sports wagering earlier, Ohio saw delays over who should have access to the new industry and who should regulate it. Under the passed bill, the Ohio Casino Control Commission is set to oversee sports betting, while sportsbooks will pay a flat 10% tax rate.

While sweeping changes made to House Bill 29 on Wednesday afternoon passed swiftly through both the Legislature, Senate and House without much time for parties to weigh in, Senator Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, said this speed was necessary because state lawmakers had already worked on the topic for years, reports The Columbus Dispatch.

Schuring also claimed that more negotiations with groups fighting for a competitive edge wouldn’t have helped. "None of them like each other and they're highly competitive," the Senator stated.

The bill was expected to receive Gov. Mike DeWine’s signature as early as Wednesday evening. Regulations could be in place to allow betting on college, professional and esports by next year: the deadline to kick off is January 1, 2023.

  
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.

Should DeWine, a long-time sports betting supporter, sign the law, House Bill 29 would allow the state to offer up to 25 five-year licenses for applicants that can bank a bet, including Ohio’s 11 casinos and racinos, to partner with online and mobile-app partners. Casinos can operate up to two online betting websites and accompanying mobile apps (or “skins.”)

While the first skin has a cost of $3 million, the second one would cost $10 million. Casinos and sports teams can only apply for the second skin if they show an “incremental economic benefit” to having it.

Additionally, Type B licenses, which allow in-person betting in brick-and-mortar stores, are also regulated under the bill. Initial license fees range from $50,000 to $100,000, depending on whether the business already has an online betting license. Meanwhile, bars with certain liquor licenses could apply for Type C licenses for spreads and over/under bets on kiosks. A total of 25 online sportsbooks and 42 retail operations are described in the law.

Licenses in Ohio are set to be distributed across the state according to population, with most taxed revenue going toward public and private K-12 education, and about 2% earmarked for problem gambling services. A 0.5% of license fees are expected to go toward veterans’ services.

While certain lawmakers and parties intended for regulation to be under the state’s Lottery, the Ohio Casino Control Commission will be the body in charge of overseeing the industry. According to the text of the bill, the commission can begin accepting applications on January 1, 2022, and may begin issuing licenses as early as April 1, 2022.

Although the bill has been long expected by both sports fans and wagering companies, and the state seems keen on launching operations, bill co-sponsor Rep. Adam Miller, D-Columbus, thinks lawmakers will end up drafting another bill, further reports Dispatch.

"I would wager we are probably going to be back here in seven or eight months after the rule-making has concluded," Miller said. "We worked hard to bring so many different stakeholders into the room that there are minor periods and commas and things like that that we are going to need to fix."

While the bill ended up being similar in scope to the one the Senate passed last spring, it introduces a series of changes, among them the inclusion of esports wagering, the addition of retail sportsbooks in counties with less than 100,000 residents and the removal of a requirement that sportsbooks use official league data.

“We finally came to a compromise where no one has an advantage,” said Adam Miller, according to Spectrum News. “The casino and racino have their opportunity, the teams and the league are going to have their opportunity, the bars and restaurants are going to have their opportunity. And it’s going to benefit education and veterans groups in a really substantial way.”

The bill seems now finally positioned for definitive approval, following a series of failed attempts. Earlier this year, during last spring, the Senate passed a bill that never came up for a vote in the House, while in 2020, a bill got plenty of hearings in the Senate but never made it to the floor for a vote.

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