Lawmakers in Ohio have been looking to legalize sports gambling during this legislative session. This represents a growing trend in the United States. States are increasingly moving toward making sports gambling legal. The explosion in sports gambling happened after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The court ruled that states could decide for themselves whether to legalize sports gambling. Since the ruling in May 2018 against the 1992 law, several states have legalized sports gambling. However, no state in the Midwest has yet to legalize it. Michigan’s legislature passed a sports gambling bill. The governor vetoed it right before he finished his term. The race is on for Midwestern states to legalize sports gambling.
The Move Toward More Gambling in Ohio
Ohio allows gambling at race tracks, and it has a lottery. Race track gambling had been legal for decades, and the lottery has been legal since the 1970s. It did not legalize casino gambling until 2009. Ohio now has 11 commercial casinos and racinos. The state also has three tribal casinos. Ohio made $1.86 billion in revenue in 2018. Ohio sees additional gambling as a way to add more revenue to the state. Ohio also wants to beat out the other Midwestern states with regard to sports gambling.
The Two Bills
One bill, by representatives from Westlake and Cincinnati, would allow several businesses and charities to have sports betting. This includes casinos, racinos, and charity organizations, such as veterans’ organizations and fraternal organizations. It would later expand to convenience stores, bars, and lottery vendors. Under this bill, the Ohio Lottery would be in charge of the sportsbooks.
Two senators from smaller towns sponsored the other bill. The Senate bill names the Casino Control Commission as the regulatory authority. The only locations where it would allow gambling would be casinos and racinos. This bill does not want the lottery commission to run sports gambling. The sponsors see sports gambling as something that needs more regulation.
Pros and Cons
The senators have argued additional regulation is necessary because of the nature of sports betting and the idea of cheating. They do not want people to place sports bets at the convenience store down the street. However, the senators feel that sports betting is inevitable, and it should be strictly controlled.
Senators also expressed concerns about underage players gambling. They believe novice players who don’t know anything about sports gambling would gamble too much and lose money.
However, the representatives have some observations about their bill. First, they argue that people are already gambling on sports in the state illegally. Researchers have estimated that Americans gamble on sports at $150 billion a year legally and illegally. When people gamble illegally, states don’t receive any of the proceeds. The representatives pointed out the state should get the proceeds from sports gambling.
It remains unclear whether the opposite house will pass the bill. Under the Ohio Constitution, both houses must approve a bill, which will, then, go to the governor. The Ohio governor has not said whether he will sign it. In order to get the bill to the governor, the legislature is going to have to agree. If the legislature manages to pass a sports betting bill, and the governor signs it, sportsbooks want to be ready. They are hoping to be up and running by the start of the 2019 NFL season. Also, they expect to see some competition, not just from places where people can play sportsbooks, but from tribal casinos. The tribal casinos have expressed interest in opening sportsbooks as well.
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