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Ohio sports betting bill unveiled in Columbus with an eye towards passage by end of June

Posted at 1:25 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 19:20:24-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The effort to bring legalized sports betting to Ohio this year took a major step forward in Columbus today as state lawmakers rolled out their plan in the state Senate.

In all, there will be 40 licenses available in Ohio with a proposed fee of $1 million for three years. Twenty of them would be Class A licenses that would go to those that could "bank the bet," in other words, the state's four casinos and seven racinos. Twenty 20 Class B licenses that would be brick and mortar sports books with big screen TVs, where people can watch and wager. They can stand alone or be inside a ballpark, which is something the state's sports teams had advocated for during the Senate Select Committee on Sports Gambling's eight hearing on the bill earlier this year.

The Class A facilities like the state’s 11 casinos and racinos can hire a mobile application company like Draft Kings, Barstool or FanDuel to serve as the sports betting operator. Bill sponsor Senator Kirk Schurring (R-Canton) said the casinos and racinos may have wanted a monopoly but they not only didn't get one, they're allowing for extra licenses should other big players want to come into the state.

"We believe in the free market so if there is another entity out there right now, notwithstanding those 11 that we're talking about, who can come up with the money to bank the bet, come to Ohio," Senator Schuring said.

Previous versions of the bill last year were split on oversight as to whether the Ohio Lottery or the Casino Control Commission would oversee regulations. Schuring said it was clear to them this belongs with the Casino Control Commission.

"The lottery is a marketing agency, not a regulatory agency," Schurring said. "When it comes to gaming, we have to put it under the auspices of the Ohio Casino Control Commission. Now when it comes to a pool, a lottery pool where there is no risk to the lottery, yes the lottery can have jurisdiction over that… I would never give an odds-making risk to the Ohio Lottery for fear that if they couldn't bank the bet, the bank of last resort is the people of Ohio."

The state is proposing a 10% tax on all licensed winnings after bets are paid, which is in line with states across the country with the exception of Pennsylvania, which charges a nation high 36%. That money in Ohio will go to education and problem gambling. Sports betting, though, generates the least tax revenue of all forms of gambling, so sponsors say it's not about the money.

Hearings on the bill, which also tackles the issue of E-bingo and I-lottery will begin next Wednesday in the state senate. Schuring said they will be reaching out to both the house as well as the governor's office today to get their input. They want to be able to move fast on this with an eye towards getting it passed before the end of June.