Ohio Senate Announces Committee To Analyze Legal Gambling In Buckeye State

Ohio was somewhat close to legalizing online/mobile sports betting platforms in 2020, after the House passed a bill mid-year. However, the Senate wasn’t able to get its bill passed and thus here we are in 2021 with Ohio sitting on the sidelines as another Super Bowl approaches.

The only Ohio neighbor without sports betting is Kentucky.

There’s no Ohio bill on the table yet in 2021, but that could be forthcoming. Last week, Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman announced the creation of the Senate Select Committee on Gaming “for the purpose of overseeing gaming regulation in Ohio and to analyze the industries’ economic impact on the state.” Translation: more or less a study committee.

The select committee couldn’t hurt, as the House sports betting bill was seeking to put sports betting in the regulatory hands of the Ohio Lottery while the Senate version would have put regulation in the hands of the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

“The growing gaming industry is something Ohio must be prepared to address,” Huffman said in a statement. “This committee will ask the tough questions ranging from best practices to oversight. I look forward to their recommendations.”

Ohio could be wise to move relatively quickly here. Not only do all but one of its neighbors have sports betting, two of the four (Michigan and Pennsylvania) have online casinos as well. Indiana is considering online casino legislation this year.

The members of the Senate appointed by Huffman to the gaming committee are:

  • Chair, Senator Kirk Schuring (R-Canton)
  • Vice Chair, Senator Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville)
  • Senator Louis W. Blessing, III (R-Colerain Township)
  • Senator George F. Lang (R-West Chester)
  • Senator Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg)
  • Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati)
  • Senator Hearcel F. Craig (D-Columbus)

Does this mean a delay for legislation?

The legislation on the table last year couldn’t carry over into 2021. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the House and Senate versions had some differences that had yet to be officially hashed out. The progress made on the concept of sports betting in Ohio won’t be lost, however.

The creation of a committee to study gambling in Ohio seems like it could pose a delay to get the ball rolling again on sportsbooks. However, that probably isn’t the case, according to former Ohio policymaker and gaming industry advocate Dan Dodd.

“Things already look very different from last session, in a good way,” Dodd wrote on Twitter. “From the sound of things, legislation could be looking at introduction and movement sooner rather than later.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who has long advocated for sports betting, said in a recent interview that he “suspect[s]” Ohio will get sports betting to his desk this year, but that was a vague response. Ohio could need to stretch the process into 2022 to get sports betting finished.

If that happens, Ohio could have mobile sports betting in time for the 2022-23 NFL season.