New Bill in Ohio House Would Legalize Sports Betting

The bill co-sponsored by State Rep. Brigid Kelly would put sports betting under the control of the Ohio Lottery Commission. A 10-percent tax on wagers would go to education and gambling addiction programs.

click to enlarge Sports betting at a Los Vegas casino - Baishampayan Ghos (flickr.com/people/ghoseb/)
Baishampayan Ghos (flickr.com/people/ghoseb/)
Sports betting at a Los Vegas casino

Would you cruise down to your nearest casino to place bets on the Final Four? You might have the opportunity to do so if the Ohio General Assembly passes a bill introduced yesterday by Cincinnati Democrat State Rep. Brigid Kelly and Republican State Rep. Dave Greenspan, who represents suburban Cleveland. 

Under the proposed legislation, the Ohio State Lottery Commission would oversee betting on professional and collegiate sporting events at the state's 11 casinos as well as at veterans halls and fraternal clubs, collecting a 10-percent tax on betting that would go to school districts and gambling addiction treatment and prevention. 

The tax could generate as much as $30 million a year, researchers suggest. That amount could double if online sports betting were also to become legal — an issue Kelly and Greenspan made room for in their legislation pending the results of ongoing court battles around that question.

Currently, eight states allow sports betting and 20 others are considering legislation to do the same. The bill in the Ohio House is modeled after one passed in West Virginia last year. Those states legalized sports betting after a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision struck down laws banning the practice.

Kelly and Greenspan's legislation could face some competition and resistance in the State Senate. Last month, Republican State Sen. John Eklund and Democrat State Sen. Sean O'Brien introduced their own sports betting legalization bill. That law would put sports betting under the control of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, which plays a smaller investigative role under the House bill. That commission was created in 2009 when voters approved an amendment to the Ohio Constitution to allow casinos in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. 

Meanwhile, State Senate President Larry Obhof, a Republican, has said he believes it will take another amendment to the state constitution to legalize sports betting. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who would have to sign any sports betting bill before it became law, says he is taking a wait-and-see approach as the House and Senate work through the proposals. 

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