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Ohio Sports Betting Bill Favored to Pass

An Ohio sports betting bill which would make the state the eighth to offer legal sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban last May is a favorite to pass, at least according to its primary sponsor.

Speaking to Matthew Kredell of Legal Sports Report, state senator John Eklund (R-18) said Senate Bill 316 has a higher likelihood of success than failure:

“I think the chances are better than 50-50. But, remember, I told you that I don’t bet, so I’m not what you would call a reliable handicapper.

My feeling – because the number of groups and organizations that have expressed some level of support for this outnumber the groups that have a hell-no attitude – is some measure of confidence that we’ll be able to get it done.”

Ohio Sports Betting Became a Priority Shortly After PASPA Repeal

SB-316 was introduced by Eklund, along with co-sponsor state senator Sean O’Brien (D-32), in July of last year. State representative Dan Greenspan (R-16) followed suit that same month by sponsoring a companion Ohio sports betting bill in the House.

Two months earlier, the Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, which previously banned sportsbook wagering anywhere other than Nevada.

In the wake of that decision, six states – Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island – passed legislation and launched regulated sportsbooks, while a tribal casino in New Mexico also began accepting legal wagers.

As of now, SB-316 currently serves as a placeholder bill with no legislative language to speak of other than the following line:

“It is the intent of the General Assembly to develop and enact legislation legalizing sports wagering.”

Eklund told Legal Sports Report that he intends to draft a full legislative package for SB-316 by the end of the month.

In announcing the bill’s introduction, Eklund told local news outlets that Ohio would be best served by getting ahead of the curve and gaining early entrance to the Midwest regional market:

“There is a lot of widespread interest in it and a desire for it.

I think it is ultimately coming and I think we are better off using the legislative process for that to happen than the vagaries of an initiative process which is really not informed by facts, investigation and research as the legislative process will be.”

The initiative process Eklund referenced concerns a ballot referendum held in November of 2009, largely at the behest of corporate casino operators.

After the state legislature declined to take up commercial casino expansion to supplement its existing “racino” model, voters passed the initiative by a 53 to 47 margin, enabling the construction of four casino resorts in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo.

Local Heavyweight Hollywood Casino Provides Proof of Concept

Two of those four commercial casinos, along with two of the state’s seven racinos, are operated under the Hollywood Casino brand:

Hollywood Casino Columbus

Hollywood Casino Toledo

Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway

Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course

Owned by the Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming, Hollywood Casino runs 20 casinos in 12 states – including Nevada, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

On August 30, the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races became the first venue in West Virginia to accept legal wagers.

By November 17, the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course accepted the first legal sports bets in Pennsylvania’s post-PASPA era.

And with two Hollywood Casino sportsbook locations in Mississippi, along with three other properties there, parent company Penn National Gaming is a major player in the Magnolia State.