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Lawmakers to unveil new bill to make sports betting legal

Zion Williamson
Posted at 5:19 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 17:19:08-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming will unveil Thursday morning at 10 a.m. their bill to legalize sports betting in the state according to the office of the bill's sponsor Senator Kirk Schuring. The committee wrapped up a series of nine hearings five weeks ago in which they heard from almost 50 witnesses on the subject before breaking March 31 to begin crafting the bill.

In the time since the Supreme Court opened the door for legalized sports betting outside of Nevada in 2018, it's popped up in all of the states surrounding but for one, Kentucky and they're not far behind. Last spring the house passed a bill that would have cleared the way for sports betting at the state's four casinos and seven racinos. A sticking point was oversight, whether it should be under the Casino Control Commission or the Ohio Lottery something that will a key point of the latest plan when it’s unveiled Thursday.

Also key will be the number of licenses issued, whether it will be limited to just the casinos and racinos but expanded to allow other cities and businesses in on the action. Last month a fair gaming group called on lawmakers to do just that.

“If legal sports betting is allowed in Ohio, it must be structured in a way that benefits all Ohio cities -- not just the four major cities that have casinos,” the group said in a news release announcing a digital ad campaign that targets legislators who might want to limit sports wagers only in casinos or state-licensed racetracks

“If our state allows legal sports betting, we have just one chance to do it right," said David Corey, Executive Vice President of the Ohio Coin Machine Association. “The right thing is structuring it in a way that allows cities like Canton and small businesses to share in the benefits of this new industry.”

The state’s professional sports teams also want in on sportsbook licenses with each team able to offer sports betting online and in person at their facilities. Cavaliers CEO Len Komoroski was among those testifying before the committee on March 24 on the need for legalized sports betting saying fans are already doing it illegally to the tune of $100 to $200 million a year.

"These bets are taken in the black market that does not support local business, can not be taxed and most important cannot be monitored or regulated."

Komoroski’s testimony came just one day before the Cavs announced a partnership with Betway, an authorized sports betting operator of the NBA.

Also of note will be the percentage of tax the state will levy against the sports book’s take. Compared to traditional gambling, sports betting brings in much less for the operator but is seen as a good generator of foot traffic so though casino earnings are taxed at 33% after all bets are paid the earlier sports betting bill would have put the tax at 6.25% which would have been at the time the lowest rate offered by a state. Most are in the 7 to 10% range with Pennsylvania the lone outlier at 36%.

"I think if you want sports betting to come to Ohio things are looking pretty good for you right now,” said industry analyst Jeff Edelstein who has covered the Ohio process for Sportshandle. He says the benefit Ohio has is they can go to school in the states that have already established sports betting.

"I think it's conceivable that there could be sports betting in Ohio by late fall, early winter,” he said.

Stay with News 5 Thursday for the latest on the details of the proposal.