The time for talking is (almost) done in Ohio, as the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming held its penultimate hearing Tuesday morning.
And while little in the way of testimony affecting the bill SB 176 was discussed, the chairman of the committee, Sen. Kirk Schuring, reminded fellow legislators to get any amendments to his office by 4 p.m. Friday because the time is coming to get this bill to the Senate floor.
“We will convene our last hearing on Tuesday of next week at a time yet to be determined,” Schuring said. “But our goal is to vote the bill out on Tuesday, put it on the Senate floor on Wednesday, and move it over to the House because we want to get something done by June 30.”
The June 30 deadline is self-imposed by the committee, though the teeth lack sharpness as the Ohio legislature meets year-round. Additionally, the bill, as currently written, wouldn’t allow sports betting until Jan. 1, 2022, so the deadline is somewhat less pressing.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of prevailing political winds that would seem to indicate this bill, which puts the Ohio Casino Commission in the regulatory chair, is going to move fast. This was highlighted in a March 1 press conference when Gov. Mike DeWine called sports betting in Ohio something that was “inevitable.”
On Wednesday, in a quick meeting of the committee, a few major changes were announced to Senate Bill 176, which has not yet been updated on the Ohio state webpages.
Changes included how much sports betting licenses would cost and how many mobile licenses the casino commission could grant.
Additionally, allowing wagering on both eSports and horse racing via mobile apps and at brick and mortar locations was added.
But the biggest announced change would be the prohibition of wagering on events where athletes under the age of 18 are competing. This is a provision and policy that’s unanimous throughout the country. It’s unclear if this prohibition means an entire event — say, the women’s U.S. Open — would be knocked out of commission, or just individual matches that feature competitors under 18.
A long and winding road
The road to the Senate vote has been longer than many expected, as back in 2018, DeWine publicly stated he was fine with sports betting coming to Ohio in the wake of the United States Supreme Court overturning PASPA. As a result, legislative leaders got busy working on a bill.
But things quickly fell off the rails, as the Assembly and Senate passed two wildly different bills, with the main sticking point being who would’ve been in charge of the whole operation.
The Assembly bill would have put the Ohio Lottery Commission in charge of sports betting (both retail and online), whereas the Senate’s version had the Ohio Casino Control Commission in charge.
Other issues included the tax rate, collegiate sports betting, and the number of skins available.
Despite the roadblocks, it was widely expected that Ohio would get a deal done in 2020. That is, until COVID struck, which not only slowed the progress of the gaming bill, but, as FanDuel cited, also pitted legislators against each other in a fierce partisan battle over the virus.
The competing bills never made it out of committee, and so the entire process started anew in 2021, with nearly four months of hearings finally (nearly) completed.