Within the span of two days, the odds of legal sports betting arriving in Ohio this year improved considerably for local bettors as Ohio passed a sports betting bill.

On May 27, the state’s House of Representatives Finance Committee voted 30 to 1 in favor of advancing House Bill 194 – also known as the “Act to Legalize and Regulate Sports Gaming / Tax Sports Gaming Businesses.”

And one day later the full House voted 83 to 10  – with only Ohio’s most conservative Republican lawmakers siding against legal sportsbooks – to send HB-194 to the Senate.

The bill is co-sponsored by state representative Dave Greenspan (R-16) and state representative Brigid Kelly (D-31), a bipartisan pairing that convinced colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

In an interview with Legal Sports Report held after the successful committee vote, Greenspan explained the impetus for jump-starting the Buckeye State’s sports betting discussion:

“We’re moving it now to start negotiations with the Senate over the summer so, when we come back early in the fall, we’ll be able to get a bill on the governor’s desk by the end of the year.”

Greenspan and Kelly introduced HB-194 back in May of last year, and the legislation went through eight Finance Committee hearings before stalling out in that session.

ohio sports betting bill, brigid kelly (d) supporting ohio sportsbetting bill

Brigid Kelly (D-31), one of two sponsors of Ohio’s sports betting bill. In a rare showing, this bill has bipartisan support. 

Ohio Plays Catch Up in Regional Race for Sports Betting Revenue

If regulated sports betting does become a reality in Ohio, it will join neighboring states like Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan – all of which have the industry up and running.

Speaking with Cleveland.com after the House vote, Kelly pointed to the potential tax revenue currently being diverted into the coffers of regional neighbors and underground bookmakers:

“So Ohioans who want to wager on sports have to go spend their money somewhere else in another state.

Well it’s either that or they call ‘their guy,’ or that’s how I understand it. But we can change that.”

That sentiment was shared by state senator John Eklund (R-18), who is sponsoring his own Ohio sports betting bill to compete with HB-194.

In comments made to the Dayton Daily News, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said criminalizing a market that already thrives in Ohio simply doesn’t make legal or financial sense:

“If there are billions of dollars, as they are, being wagered on sports by otherwise law abiding, sensible Ohioans, to have laws now that turns them basically into criminals is a little ridiculous.”

House and Senate Still Have to Negotiate and Bridge Competing Bills

Under the terms of HB-194, sportsbook operators would have their “win” revenue taxed at a rater of 10 percent. Greenspan and Kelly would also task the Ohio Lottery Commission with regulating the newest addition to Ohio’s gambling industry.

In his Senate Bill 111, however, Eklund calls for a 6.5 percent tax rate and regulation by the state’s Casino Control Commission.

Both bills would authorize brick and mortar sportsbooks along with affiliated online / mobile betting apps.

The sticking point between which agency will regulate sports betting will force the House and Senate into a familiar negotiation process.

Last November, through his press secretary Dan Tierney, Governor Mike Dewine (R) told Legal Sports Report that he wanted the General Assembly to send him a sports betting bill as soon as possible:

“He does believe that sports betting is coming and it’s important to do this through the legislative process.”

He does believe that sports betting is coming and it’s important to do this through the legislative process.

Tierney also outlined the Governor’s personal preference for the Casino Control Commission to oversee regulation:

“The governor’s preference for the Casino Control Commission partially is based on the Casino Control Commission being an existing regulatory body that does regulation but does not operate gaming itself.”

Given that endorsement, Greenspan and Kelly will likely have to make a key concession in order to bridge the gap between HB-194 and SB-111.

Jonathan Zaun

One of Gamble Online's first dedicated reporters, Jonathan has spent well over a decade reporting on the gaming industry. While breaking legal news is his main area of expertise, Jonathan is an avid blackjack player & strategist who follows professional poker closely.

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