COLUMBUS, Ohio — When the Ohio sports betting bill was introduced on May 6, there was one date lawmakers had circled on their calendars. "We want to get something done by June 30,” said co-sponsor Sen. Kirk Schuring of Stark County.
It wasn't a wishful target. It was one the bill's sponsors told supporters they could confidently hit.
"I will commit to you that if this isn't done by June 30, you can come into my office and yell at me,” State Sen. Niraj Antani told a constituent at a hearing last month.
But barring the longest of long shots, he may soon have a visitor after Ohio Speaker of the House Bob Cupp put the brakes on the bill last week, wanting to hold his own hearings on it.
"Sitting I guess is where they stand right now,” is how industry analyst Jeff Edelstein put the current status. He has been covering the back and forth for the website Sportshandle.
"The House Speaker is in no rush to get this done until he has a chance to set up his own committee ... after the Senate went through three-plus months of committee hearings,” Edelstein said.
Changes were made to the bill late last week to win over supporters, mainly allowing for more licenses for counties like Cuyahoga in a move to open up sports betting to the state's casinos and racinos, which were in danger of being shut out. When that wasn't enough, the sports betting bill was attached to a Veterans ID bill that was sure to pass, but that, too, was tabled.
“It would seem that the concerns that members of the House were going to have were the fact that the casinos were just basically being bounced out of being able to get a brick and mortar sports book. That concern was raised by two senators even during the vote in the Senate. They fixed that basically when they added it to HB 29 so that basically the casinos would be on equal footing with sports teams. Sports teams would still get preferential treatment, but there would be enough licenses to go around for the casinos to also get one,” said Edelstein. "I'm not sure what more the House would be looking for."
For Antani, the delay was a blow.
“I’m very disappointed. We definitely wanted to get this done by June 30. It is very unfortunate that we haven’t,” he told News 5. “I think we all need to make a concerted effort to work over the summer to get this done during September when we come back into session.”
Sponsors had hoped to open the license application process on January 1 with the licenses themselves to be awarded no later than April 1. New dates are anyone's guess.
"You know do the math,” said Edelstein. “You push it back three or four months. I'm assuming they're going to have to push the start date back three or four months. So now we were talking two months ago saying, 'Yeah I think we might be able to be on football this year. Not betting on football this year. Hopefully, maybe betting on football next year."
We asked Antani if he’s heard yet from the constituent who he told could yell at him if they missed the deadline?
“I’m waiting for him to schedule that with me, but he deservedly should do that,” Antani said. “We did not meet our deadline, that’s on us, but it’s time to pick up the ball and get this done in September.”