After years of fits and starts, the Ohio Legislature pulled it all together Wednesday, with a sports betting bill flying through the Senate by a 31-1 margin and the House approving it shortly thereafter by a 72-12 margin. The bill was expected to receive Gov. Mike DeWine’s signature, possibly as early as Wednesday evening.
BREAKING: Ohio House joins the Senate in voting to legalize sports betting. House vote was 72-12.
The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. DeWine and will implement legal sports betting in the state by 2023.
— Matt Wright Fox 8 (@mattwrighttv) December 8, 2021
The Ohio Casino Control Commission will oversee the sports betting industry, and the sportsbooks will pay a flat 10% tax rate, according to the text of the bill.
The bill is similar in scope to the one the Senate passed last spring — there will be both retail and online betting in Ohio. According to the text of the bill, the Casino Control Commission can begin accepting sporting gambling proprietor applications on Jan. 1, 2022, and may begin issuing licenses as early as April 1, 2022.. There are a few changes, however, as noted in the synopsis of amendments made in conference committee.
🚨 OHIO SPORTS BETTING BILL 🚨
This is a summary of a deal made by both chambers on Ohio's sports betting bill. It's now teed up for a vote in the Senate as early as today. https://t.co/EEZ1ELjyvS
— Josh Croup 13abc (@JoshCroup) December 8, 2021
Notable among the changes are the inclusion of eSports wagering, the addition of retail sportsbooks in counties with less than 100,000 residents, and removal of a requirement that sportsbooks use official league data.
Additionally, language has been added in an effort to make the licensing of retail sportsbooks an equitable exercise, with the Director of Administrative Services planning to do a study to see if race, color, gender, disability, or ethnicity plays a role in the licensing process. If the study shows that to be the case, goals will need to be set to ensure the equitable distribution of licenses.
A few other details, as explained in the synopsis: The bill allows for 25 so-called “Type A” licenses, which are for entities that can “bank the bet,” such as casinos and their partners and professional sports franchises/venues. But the committee decided to up the number if the need arises. Type A licensees will be entitled to up to two digital skins or platforms, at an initial cost of $3 million over five years for the first skin, and $10 million for the second.
Additionally, as for the “Type B” licenses, which will be granted to as-yet-built retail sportsbooks, the original bill disallowed any county with under 100,000 residents to build one. The committee ditched this provision, provided the county involved can prove it received at least 5 million tourist visitors in the last calendar year.
Also, the “Type C” licenses – which will be granted to establishments with liquor licenses, and will be betting kiosks inside of the bars and/or restaurants – received an interesting twist: The Ohio Casino Control Commission will not be allowed to run a criminal background check of the proprietor of the bar/restaurant seeking a license.
In total, there is room for 25 online sportsbooks and 42 retail operations. Those wishing to offer both retail and digital wagering will be required to secure a Type A and Type B license.
Long time coming
The bill’s passage is a long time coming for would-be bettors in Ohio, as twice — once earlier this year, once last year — it appeared everything was in order in the legislature, only for things to fall apart at the last moment. Last spring, the Senate passed a bill to legalize sports betting, but it never came up for a vote in the House. And in 2020, the bill got plenty of hearings in the Senate, but never made it to the floor for a vote.
In between these two bills were countless hours of committee hearings, where everyone from the DraftKings and FanDuels of the world, right on down to supermarket and bowling alley interests, spoke in front of the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming. After the hearings, the bill flew through the Senate, only to get fully stopped by Speaker of House Bob Cupp.
So what’s changed in recent weeks? Hard to say, as closed-door conference meetings have been home to the bill’s sausage making. But as recently as Dec. 3, legislators were still hammering out the details.