In the first half of the year, midwestern states in general weren’t able to legalize sports betting, but some began to lay the groundwork for passable legislation to be crafted. For Illinois, Michigan and Ohio lawmakers, the summer months were all about learning, negotiating and educating with the goal of finding common ground.
While none of the three states has introduced any new legislation of late, all have the chance to legalize sports betting before 2019, or at the start of the 2019 session.
Below is a look at what’s in the works in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, and our thoughts on when sports betting might come to vote in each state.
The Midwest and Sports Betting Legislation: What’s Ahead in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio
Illinois lawmakers are using the summer and fall to educate themselves as well as hear from sports betting stakeholders. Representative Bob Rita (D-District 28) arranged for two hearings before the Gaming and Sales and Other Taxes House subcommittees. The first meeting was Aug. 22 in Chicago, and featured a range of speakers from municipalities to a sweepstakes company to those opposed to sports betting. The second meeting is scheduled for Oct. 3 in the state capitol of Springfield.
Throughout the regular session, Illinois legislators struggled to craft a bill that could even get to the House or Senate floors for vote. Among the offerings were a bill that included an “integrity fee” from former Oakland Raider turner state senator Napoleon Harris to Rita’s SB 7, which is a work in progress.
State lawmakers have one more chance to consider sports betting this year, as the state legislature meets for what is called a “veto session” in November. During the session, legislation that the governor has vetoed can be reconsidered and new legislation can be introduced. The session is two weeks long, and depending on the outcome of the mid-term election, can be an active period. The next opportunity in Illinois will be at the start of January, when the legislature convenes for a two-week lame-duck session before the newly elected lawmakers are seated.
The general consensus in Illinois seems to be to take the issue of sports betting slowly, rather than “screwing it up,” as one state representative put it so eloquently in May.
Our bet is that lawmakers won’t seriously consider sports betting until the new legislature is seated in early January. And even then, someone will have to take the lead to wrangle all the opposing views in the state.
Representative Brandt Iden (R-District 21) is running point on sports betting in Michigan. Heading into the summer recess, Iden’s plan was to continue meeting with Indian gaming representatives to try to find common ground, and to continue educating his fellow lawmakers on sports betting. In June, the House of Representatives passed a series of three bills relating to internet gaming, which effectively laid the groundwork for sports betting.
Michigan has 25 casinos — and only the three based in Detroit are commercially owned. That leaves more than 20 tribal casinos scattered through the state, and Michigan has pacts with the tribes through which they pay a tax on gaming. The issue with sports betting is determining how the pacts will be altered so the tribes can offer sports betting and the state still gets its cut of the revenue. At different times during the 2018 session, legislators offered up bills that focused only on the commercial casinos.
While Iden planned to learn about the integrity fee that the professional sports leagues have been peddling, he said in June that it was likely a “non-starter.”
Michigan’s state legislature broke for the summer, but went back in session in early September. The House and the Senate will be in session 21 times before the end of the year. The 2018 session ends on Dec. 20 and the 2019 session begins Jan. 9.
Our bet is that Iden has had a productive summer and he’ll have all his ducks in a row and passable sports betting legislation crafted by the new year.
The most recent sports betting bill introduced in Ohio says this: “It is the intent of the General Assembly to develop and enact legislation legalizing sports wagering.” Yep, that’s the entire text of SB 316. Why? Senators John Eklund (R-District 18) and Sean O’Brien (D-District 32) just wanted to open the conversation, with plans to educate themselves and others about sports betting before bringing a more meaty bill to the state legislature.
The bill was introduced in July with the idea being that Eklund and O’Brien would identify key players and stakeholders over the summer, meet with them and develop passable legislation sometime after the November elections.
That said, there is some question about how to legalize sports betting in Ohio. A month after the bill was filed, Senate president Larry Obhof suggested that it could take a constitutional amendment rather than a new law, to legalize sports betting. The Ohio constitution prohibits gambling. In addition to untangling the legalities of, well, how to make sports betting legal, Obhof also said he wouldn’t assign SB 316 to committee until after the November elections.
Ohio currently has 11 casinos and racinos spread throughout the state and no tribal gaming.
Our bet is that Ohio will lag behind its midwestern neighbors in legalizing sports betting as it appears the Buckeye State must sort out procedural issues in addition to figuring out the best sports betting scenario for the state.