Ohio Sports Betting Leader Says State Not Hurt By Delay Of Bill Passage

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June 30 came and went and without Ohio legalizing sports betting as its proponents had hoped.  

The Ohio Legislature is now in summer recess through Labor Day and advocates are hoping they can use the downtime to work behind the scenes so that come September it’s a done deal. 

“Over the summer, we’re going to be working on that to try to finalize it so when we come back in September, that’s one of the first things we do,” House Speaker Bob Cupp told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “That’s our goal and that’s our hope.”

State Sen. Kirk Schuring, who chaired the Senate Select Committee on Gaming, and is a leading advocate said yesterday he is confident things will get done. He also believes that despite not passing by the June 30 deadline, the state hasn’t lost out on sports betting in the future. 

We weren’t going to take the applications for the various licenses until January 2022, and those applications would not be approved until sometime before April. I think we can come very close to meeting that timeline,” he told News-Talk 1480 AM in Canton on Wednesday.

“We need to do our work in the next two months so that when the House comes back in session in early September we can quickly pass this,” he continued. “We will be very close, if not right on target, to the timeline that was in the bill if it had passed before June 30.”

Where Ohio Sports Betting Stands

Schuring and his committee held numerous meetings throughout the winter and spring, hearing from stakeholders in an effort to craft ideal legislation for all sides. They routinely mentioned the June 30 deadline as a goal and pledged it would happen.

And then it didn’t.

The Senate, after extensive work by Schuring and his committee, passed legislation on June 16. It included three types of licenses: Type A for mobile apps, which would be limited to 25; Type B for brick and mortar facilities that would be limited to 33; and Type C, which would allow certain small businesses with liquor licenses to offer Keno-like sports betting with kiosks on site.

The bill favored professional sports teams in Ohio over casinos when it came to licenses, much to the dismay of the casino operators. 

But the House did not have any hearings.

“[T]here appears to be some disagreement between the House and Senate regarding details about licenses and who gets them, etc,” Nancy Martorano Miller, a professor in political science at the University of Dayton who specializes in Ohio politics, wrote Gaming Today in an email. “Speaker (Bob Cupp) made it clear that the House was not going to take up the matter until the fall.”

Rep. Brigid Kelly was expected to shepherd a bill through the lower chamber, as she has in previous years, but her office said she was waiting to see what the Senate did before moving forward. 

In the waning days before June 30 proponents tried to tack sports betting onto various pieces of legislation that were considered “must pass,” including a veteran’s identification bill. But Cupp refused to take it up without his members having a full chance to vet it.

What Will Ohio Lawmakers Do In The Fall On Sports Betting

Miller is confident lawmakers will come to some sort of agreement over the summer. 

“I think sports betting will be legalized. All of the states that border Ohio have legalized the practice, and elected officials know that Ohioans are likely crossing the border into those states to bet on sports. The state would like its share of that revenue. It is just a matter of working out the details,” she wrote. 

What those details look like, however, is anyone’s guess. 

Schuring told the Canton radio station, however, he thinks they are close to the finish line and he doesn’t expect additional licenses. 

“I think we have a good framework, I don’t think it’s going to need a major overhaul. I think it just needs some fine-tuning. I think the licenses that we have, the A and B licenses that we talked about before are in good shape. There might be some people that want to make some adjustments to the Type C licenses,” he said. “There is really not much left to do.  I think we have a consensus.”

Certain small businesses had hoped to get in on the action by allowing Keno-like machines in their establishments to offer sports betting. The original Senate-passed legislation did allow for a version of this, but it was not what advocates had hoped for. 

Casinos had also been angered by the Senate-passed version because the legislation favored professional sports teams over their facilities. This will likely be addressed in the fall.

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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