Ohio Takes Big Step Towards Legalized Sports Betting

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Photo credit: Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield

The state of Ohio took a big step toward legalizing sports betting on Wednesday.

The Ohio House Finance Committee voted to advance a bill to legalize sports betting in the state following more than a year of hearings.

After receiving little opposition, the bill is set for a vote in front of the whole House that is expected to take place tomorrow.

If the bill passes on the House floor, which Rep. Dave Greenspan expects, it would move to the Senate.

“We’re moving it now to start negotiations with the Senate over the summer so when we come back early in the fall we’ll be able to get a bill on the governor’s desk by the end of the year,” Greenspan told Legal Sports Report.

The bill would allow online betting and permit betting to take place at casinos, racetracks with video lottery terminals, and some veteran and fraternal groups.

If the bill passes, there are still differences between Greenspan’s House bill and a Senate bill that was introduced by Senator John Eklund last year.

While the House bill calls for the Ohio Lottery Commission to regulate sports betting in the state, the Senate bill pegs the Ohio Casino Control Commission to oversee the industry. Governor Mike DeWine, who said he wants to legalize betting in the state, has also stated his support for the Casino Control Commission to regulate sports betting.

Greenspan said he thinks the House will need to pass his bill for negotiations to take place.

The House bill’s move to the House floor marks the most significant action Ohio has seen in its effort to legalize sports betting since the Supreme Court struck down PASPA in 2018.

The bill initially received its first hearing in May 2019, but the disagreements between the House and Senate, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, slowed its movement.

Most of Ohio’s neighboring states — Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, and Illinois — have already legalized sports betting, putting pressure on the state to move quickly.

DeWine has said he wants the legislature to put a bill on his desk ahead of November’s elections to avoid the possibility of a special interest group putting an initiative on the ballot.

If Ohio were to put sports betting on the ballot by November, it would join Maryland as the second state to make its decision during the election season.

With more action on the House bill now than ever before, it seems as if Ohio is determined to make something happen.

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