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Ohio's Painful Approach to Legalizing Sports Gambling

May 29, 2019

With 11 states already on the books for legalizing sports gambling for its residents, the other 39 states are looking seriously at the results. In Ohio, legislators look ready to move on with legislation to legalize sports and online gambling for its resident. The question is, "which bill will they moving forward with?"

There are currently two bipartisan bills moving through Congress that will decide how sports gaming would be handled within the state's borders. The bill that is currently working its way through the Senate give authority over sports betting to the Casino Control Commission. That means sports betting would be permitted in the state's casinos and racinos only. The House bill would give that authority to the Lottery Commission. If the Lottery Commission is controlling sports and online gambling, bookmaking authorization would go to casinos, racinos and perhaps facilities that sell lottery tickets.

Before anything gets passed, there are still factions operating within the state that oppose any kind of casino or online gambling. One such person and group is Rob Walgate with the conservative Ohio Roundtable. It's noteworthy Walgate was responsible for filing suit again the state in 2011 over the legality of racinos. In the end, the court ruled he and his group didn’t have legal standing to sue. 

He's back to fight the news bills, promising more legal action if either bill were to clear its respective house. Regarding his objection over control going to the Lottery Commission, Walgate stated, “If they’re going to put it under the Lottery Commission, I think you may see some litigation rear its head from some bar owners, from some restaurant owners, from some bowling alley owners who say, ‘wait a minute, we want a piece of the action.’” 

While the debate over the legality of sports and online gambling in Ohio continues, Jeff Ifrah, founder of the online gaming trade association iDEA Growth step forward to remind legislators about the importance of also approving mobile gambling at the same time it passes the sports betting initiative. 

He warned, “When regulators or legislators pass sports betting with an intent on raising a certain amount of revenue, they really don’t fully understand that if they don’t offer mobile, it’s very unlikely they’re going to achieve their revenue goals.”

It's not clear if and when Ohio residents will be able to legally bet on sports. What is clear is the debate is spirited, which should lead to the right resolution.


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