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Ohio House to vote on sports betting proposal




Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

A bill that would allow Ohioans to gamble on sports without leaving the couch cleared a major hurdle Wednesday and will head to the House floor.

House Bill 194 passed the House Finance Committee with a bipartisan majority. The legislation, if signed, would allow anyone aged 21-and-up to wager on sports either online or in person at casinos, racinos, or veterans or fraternal organizations.

The state would tax revenue —minus winnings — at 10% and earmark the money for a fund within the Department of Education.

The legislation, roughly a year in the making, still requires approval from the full House, the Senate and the governor. The Senate has its own proposal for sports betting in Ohio with critical differences in regulatory control and taxation, potentially setting up a showdown.

Seventeen states have adopted legislation allowing for sports betting programs according to a count from Legal Sports Report, an industry publication. The trend started after a 2018 Supreme Court ruling overturned a federal law banning gambling on sports.

Forecasting from the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission estimates the program could draw roughly a modest $18 million in the 2021 fiscal year and $24 million in the 2022 fiscal year, plus smaller sums in license fees.

Since its May 2019 introduction, the bill has drawn support from the likes of Penn National Gaming, which operates casinos around the country, and William Hill, which describes itself as the world’s biggest bookmaker.

However, it drew opposition criticism from the PGA, the Cincinnati Reds and other professional sport entities. Their criticisms center on the bill’s non-requirement of the use of “official league data.”

Legal Sports Report describes the push as the leagues’ “preferred method to get their piece” of the sports betting rush, rather than any improvement over third-party data sources

“We believe that, for live betting – where integrity, timeliness, accuracy and consistency are paramount – the data should come from the official source, the leagues, and not from pirated sources like web scrapers and on-site operatives,” a PGA spokesman said in written testimony to the committee on behalf of the PGA Tour, the MLB and the NBA.

While the House legislation would leave the Ohio Lottery Commission at the helm of regulating sports betting, the Senate bill tasks the Ohio Casino Control Commission with oversight. Likewise, the Senate proposal levies a lighter 6.25% tax on revenue and puts it all in the state general fund.

The Columbus Dispatch reported last year that Gov. Mike DeWine has indicated preference toward granting OCCC oversight duties.

The House has a floor session scheduled for Thursday.

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