The Ohio legislative session runs for all of 2021, but the wait for a sports betting bill should only last another month.
That is according to Sen. Kirk Schuring, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Gaming. He announced the timeline at Wednesday’s meeting, explaining there would be two more meetings before a two-week break in the Legislature.
The Legislature returns in mid-April with Senate committee hearings resuming April 20. By then, Schuring said a gaming bill including OH sports betting will be ready to go:
“During that two-week period, I’ll be contact every member of this committee for their input on the bank of evidence that has been presented to us relative to gaming as a whole. Then I’ll be conferring with the Senate President after I have a chance to talk to everybody on the committee. From that point we’ll build a bill, we’ll introduce a bill and when you all come back after the break we will be discussing a bill.”
Teams call for action on Ohio sports betting bill
The Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Columbus Blue Jackets and Columbus Crew should be pleased by Schuring’s timeline. All four came to the hearing to, in part, urge a quick turnaround on the bill.
All hit on similar points: the teams and the state are already behind the ball with most of Ohio’s border states allowing sports betting while the illegal market continues to operate.
Ted Tywang of Haslam Sports Group, representing the Browns and Crew, summed up the sentiments best:
“As such, we would like to see legalized sports betting in Ohio as soon as possible, and would suggest that the legislation include a concrete and accelerated timeline for regulatory implementation. Of course, we do not want to rush the process in any way that would result in a negative outcome, and it is critical that we have appropriate integrity and consumer protections, along with the optimal market structure.
“To summarize, we cannot continue to allow the illegal marketplace to thrive and have tax and commercial benefits leave our state by delaying the inevitable. We want legalized sports betting to be done right and as quickly as possible.”
Betting license is ‘vitally important’ for teams
The teams also supported the idea of getting a license to cash in on sports betting revenue themselves.
Brian Sells, the Bengals’ chief marketing officer, gave Ohio’s 11 casinos and racinos credit. Those operations represent “the core to sports betting in Ohio,” he said. But the leagues deserve a crack too, he continued:
“However, market access for Ohio’s professional teams is vitally important to our ability to compete with others in our respective leagues. So, in addition to providing market access to the 11 casinos and racinos, we believe the local professional sports teams should be provided market access as well.
“How this access is defined is up to debate, but at a minimum, having access to a mobile skin seems appropriate. Such a provision would recognize the significant economic investment the NFL, Bengals, Browns and other professional teams have made in the state of Ohio.”
Not surprisingly, all of the teams and a letter from the NFL called for the use of official league data.
Public universities against college betting in Ohio
The Inter-University Council of Ohio does not care if the state legalizes professional sports betting. It just does not want to see any college betting on its 14 schools.
The council’s worried about the welfare of its student-athletes, said president Bruce Johnson. The universities would also have to create “costly comprehensive compliance programs” for just about everyone associated with sports, he added.
Johnson’s request is not an unusual one. Many states are opting to ban betting on in-state schools though no proof exists of the efficacy of such bans. Those games will still be available just over the border in other legal betting states and with illegal operators.
He did have perhaps the best line of the hearing as he tried to tug at heartstrings:
“[Sports betting] also demeans the competition and competitors alike by spreading a message that is contrary to the purpose and meaning of ‘sport.’”