Ohio Sports Betting Legislation Coming In April

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Ohio lawmakers tasked with crafting a sports betting bill heard from the last round of stakeholders this morning seeking to influence the final product. 

State Sen. Kirk Schuring (R.), chairman of the Select Committee on Gaming, told fellow members and observers he expected a formal bill soon. After several weeks of testimony from experts and industry leaders, Schuring said the real work starts now. 

“This doesn’t mean we are done,” he said, noting lawmakers will now work to “build a bill.” 

He hopes to have a formal bill unveiled “in the next few weeks, sometime in April,” he said.  And then he expects hearings to follow. 

Striking A Balance

Since early March various industries have sent representatives, or even just written statements, to Columbus to speak before the committee. The state Senate announced its creation in January and Governor Mike DeWine (R) said earlier this month he expected sports gaming to be legal in Ohio soon. It wasn’t a question of if, he said, only when.

With DeWine on board for a legal sports betting bill, and Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, it’s likely this could be the best year for legislation to become a reality.

Today horse-racing interests took center stage, and they cautioned what impact expanded sports betting would have on their industry — which similar to so many others in the country has had a challenging year due to COVID. 

Renée Mancino, executive director of the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association, told committee members, her organization was concerned that legislation would hurt their livelihoods and confuse patrons. She cautioned them to be careful and to learn from past experiences of states who have oversaturated the market. 

“Legislation must strike a balance to promote an open market reasonable for brick and mortar competitors and responsible to Ohio’s citizens,” she said.

Dave Basler, executive director of Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, was more direct.  

In brief remarks he told them sports gaming would “unquestionably hurt” his industry and he encouraged them to craft a bill that would share the profits of sports gaming throughout all sports industries, including his.

“If the Cleveland Browns kick off at 1 pm and a horse race starts at 1 pm, we lose,” he said. 

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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