Ohio Eyeing Sports Betting Legislation

Ohio Eyeing Sports Betting LegislationThe current motto in Ohio is “better than never”, as the state is finally taking the first steps toward making legal Ohio sports betting a reality.

In the nearly three months since the Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports wagering, many of Ohio’s neighboring states have already legalized sports wagering. Both Pennsylvania and West Virginia sportsbooks anticipate launching by Atlanta Falcons vs Philadelphia Eagles season opener on September 6th.

At this point, Ohio is already playing catch-up but could still stay relatively ahead of its Midwestern neighbors. The longer that the state waits, however, the greater the potential loss of market share.

“If Ohio lags behind, and Pennsylvania and West Virginia have already legalized ... it will be really hard to get people back to Ohio,” stated Jay Masurekar, head of gaming and travel investment banking at KeyBanc Capital Markets.

Industry analysts predict that Ohio sportsbooks could generate anywhere from 5% to 7% in revenue, which translates to millions of dollars for the state. Within 17 days of sportsbooks opening in New Jersey, the total handle was $16.4 million with $3.5 million in revenue.

Whether it be competitive pressure or the overall bottom line, lawmakers in the state late last week introduced draft bills that include sports betting language.

"We've had two bills introduced called placeholder bills expressing the intent of the general assembly to investigate sports wagering in Ohio and if we're to do it, how is it going to be done," said State Senator John Eklund, a sponsor of the Senate version of the bill.

The term “placeholder” is completely accurate in describing the twin bills, as the legislation text for both OH SB 316 and OH HB 174 simply declare the intent of the General Assembly to develop future legislation.

"What we're doing over in the Senate is we're assembling a list of parties who might be interested in this particular type of legislation,” stated Eklund. “Starting with that process do the necessary investigation we have to do to come up with a concrete proposal that we would then present to the general assembly in some sort of an amended bill or a substitute bill."

With topics such as wager types, taxation, and licensure eligibility still to be discussed, legal sports betting in Ohio is not expected in the near future. Many states have set the goal of accepting sports bets by September 6th, where the Atlanta Falcons will take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL season opener.

Ohio natives can drive to neighboring PA or WV to place sports wagers, or bet on the game at the Bovada online sportsbook. The Falcons vs. Eagles betting line has Philadelphia favored by 4-points as they host Atlanta at home.

Ohio sportsbooks may not launch until sometime in 2019 or 2020, but the placeholder bill proposals are a solid stepping stone and a sign of what is to come.

“We’re glad to see the legislature beginning the process of developing sports-wagering legislation, and we look forward to sharing our views as the legislative process continues,” said Hollywood Casino Columbus owner Penn National Gaming in a statement.

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