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Ohio bill legalizing sports betting expected to be introduced in legislature shortly

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Posted at 4:59 PM, Apr 13, 2021

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After nine hearings and almost 50 witnesses, the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming began the process two weeks ago of writing the state's new sports betting bill with the expectation it will be introduced before the end of the month.

"I would expect a bill to be ready to be introduced in the next few weeks sometime in April," said State Senator Kirk Schuring back on March 24.

Of the surrounding states, only Kentucky has yet to approve legalized sports betting, and with most of them offering mobile betting, Governor Mike DeWine told News 5 in January he knows there are Ohio dollars heading out of state.

"Look, it's coming to Ohio," DeWine said of sports betting. "We have people who are betting all the time in Ohio online and they're going to do this, and so allowing us to keep some of this money for education in the state seems to me to make sense."

And if they're not doing it legally, they're doing it illegally, said Cavaliers President Len Komoroski, to the tune of $100 million to $200 million a year.

"And some think that number is even higher," Komoroski said. "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 spoke in favor of legalized sports betting on March 24; the next day the Cavs announced a partnership with Betway, an authorized sports betting operator of the NBA.

Jeff Edelstein covers sports betting for Sportshandle; he says the benefit Ohio has is they can go to school on the states that have already established sports betting. That will help in deciding things like licenses, regulations and tax rates — items literally being decided now as state leaders are reportedly looking to have this wrapped and tied in with the budget by June 30.

"I think if you want sports betting to come to Ohio, things are looking pretty good for you right now," Edelstein said. "I think it's conceivable that there could be sports betting in Ohio by late fall, early winter."

Legislators must decide which agency will regulate sports betting, be it the Casino Control Commission which oversees the state's four casinos, or the Ohio Lottery, which has domain over the state's seven racinos.

"I have to imagine that they'll look at what a majority of the other states have done," Edelstein said. "And the majority of other states have the casino model."

Lawmakers must also decide what tax rate to set for sports betting, which nets the operators a much lower return than slots or table games.

"Some states are as low as like 12-13%, other states like Pennsylvania go as high as 35%, New York right now they're in the midst of hashing out what they're going to do. They're looking at like 50%," Edelstein said. "It can go a couple of different ways but if they're looking at states that are similar in size that have had successful rollouts, I think New Jersey and Michigan are the two to look at — the casinos run it."