Effort to legitimize sports gambling in Ohio officially underway at Statehouse


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – About a year ago, the Supreme Court of the United States made a ruling that opened up the opportunity for states to legitimize gambling on sports.

Since then, State Representative David Greenspan, a Republican, has been working to create a framework that such legitimization could occur here in Ohio.

The first bill he introduced in the previous General Assembly was a starting point, and like hundreds of other bills, it failed to pass before the two-year session came to a close at the end of December.

This General Assembly his bill is back with a new joint sponsor, State Representative Brigid Kelly, a Democrat.

“What we are doing is creating a broad framework that as this industry evolves they don’t have to come back to us every time there is a new game or there’s a new activity that is impacting their industry,” Greenspan said.

The sponsors say they have been working hard to get the legislation into shape.

“We’ve met with gaming organizations, we’ve met with leaders, we’ve met with leagues. So we think it’s really important to get a variety of perspectives about the impact of this law so that we can do it and do it right,” Kelly said.

Getting it right could net the state millions in new revenue.

According to Kelly’s testimony at Thursday’s hearing, an estimated $150 billion is spent betting on sports annually in America.

“We are leaving money on the table every day we wait and we’re not really addressing the ultimate issue of making this a legal activity,” Greenspan said.

Under their plan, that money would go predominantly to education. Every bet placed would be taxed by the state, which would collect 10% of the initial bet, 8% would go to school funding and 2% would go to help fund gambling addiction services.

“We talk all the time about needing more resources for schools and we think this is a good vehicle in which to accomplish that,” Kelly said. “We’ve been clear that this is additive. It is not a supplement, it is not meant to replace anything, it is meant to only enhance funding for education, not to replace.”

The bill would allow for sports betting to happen at more places than are currently allowed in any other state.

The state’s four casinos and seven racinos would be eligible to apply for a license, as would any veterans or fraternal organization hall.

Additional requirements for casinos and racinos are in capital investments and job creations, something they would have to do anyway to accommodate a new sports book in their facility. Their application fee, $100,000.

Veterans’ and fraternal organizations’ application fee is lower, only $1,000, but they would be restricted to only have a single sports betting terminal in their establishment.

Additionally, only members of the organization would be allowed to gamble, and they would have to secure a lottery license.

Finally, the facility must have a Class-D liquor license, something commonly applied to a restaurant or bar.

Greenspan and Kelly feel optimistic about getting the bill through the House relatively quickly.

If the bill is turned into law, the sponsors estimate it would take an additional six months after it goes into effect (90 days after it is signed) before benefits start to be seen.

The bill still has a long way to go before that, though, and there will be plenty of opportunity to change things with the bill before a final product is voted on.

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