Ohio took a massive blow in its bid to regulated sports betting on Tuesday as the state lost three key members backing HB194. As three states – Louisiana, Maryland, and South Dakota – approved their sports betting bills, the 2020 election brought more uncertainty and confusion for the sports betting fans in Ohio.
The three sports betting sponsors won’t return in 2021 as Rep. Dave Greenspan and Sen. Sean O’ Brien lost their respective races, while Sen. John Eklund was termed out of office. Greenspan was a primary sponsor of HB194, while Eklund co-sponsored the bill.
However, Ohio still has the chance to pass HB194 in the lame-duck session in November and December or be forced to start afresh with a new bill and new sponsors in 2021. With the key backers of the existing bill gone, it would not be easy to pass the existing sports betting bill. So, the Ohio sports betting is expected to drag into another year.
What are the Next Steps with HB194?
Although theoretically the existing sports betting bill still has the chance to get passed in 2020, it is very unlikely because of its opposition from the top authority. Senate President Larry Obhof, who sets the Senate’s agenda, is against legalizing sports betting. Inevitably, it would hurt HB194 supports if sports betting does not get on the agenda.
In addition, the rising number of COVID-19 infections in Ohio could also limit the time of the legislative session. With a limited amount of time and with more important issues like the pandemic on the agenda, the sports betting bill is more likely to be neglected as a less important issue to come up for discussion.
However, even though the three sponsors have gone and HB194 might not come up for agenda in 2020, its support will continue in 2021 by those who want to see regulated sports betting market in the Buckeye State. The biggest supporter of sports betting in Ohio is the Governor himself.
Changes to HB194
The number of licenses allowed by each gaming operator in the states was among the most significant changes in the Ohio sports betting bill. Under this, casinos and racetracks in the Buckeye State would only be allowed two operators per location, down from three before the amendment. The change will reduce the number of sports betting operators to only 22 instead of 33.
The other changes involve a $10,000 license renewal fee, which increased from the $1,000 that was set initially. Sports betting will be charged at an 8% rate, in addition to a five-year $100,000 fee to operate in Ohio.
Besides, former offshore employees will be able to work in the Ohio sports betting market. The previous draft banned anyone that worked with offshore operators in the past. Now, only those that accepted illegal wagers from the US from April 16, 2015, onward are outlawed.
HB194 Still Has A Chance!
The latest draft of HB194 revealed this week appears interesting and could draw the attention of those lawmakers who want to see Ohio benefiting from a flourishing market. For this, they don’t necessarily have to be supporters of the sports betting industry. There is still a chance that new faces could back a highly lucrative revenue source that the state needs in the critical times defined and shaped by the pandemic. In any case, the following eight weeks will be critical for HB194.
As Michigan is preparing to launch internet gambling, Ohio will only have one neighboring state with unregulated sports betting.
The Buckeye State is bound to lose out on gaming revenue as its residents will cross the border to place legal bets. Backers of the Ohio sports betting bill will make sure to bring this up during upcoming sessions to make lawmakers realize how much the state is losing and how much it can gain if they legalize sports betting in 2020.