Legalizing Sports Wagering in Ohio “Inevitable” with Governor Mike DeWine’s Blessing

  • Gov. DeWine says “sports gambling is already in Ohio. Ohio is just not regulating it”
  • Bordering states success incl. Pennsylvania, Indiana & Michigan likely catalyst for action
  • Ohio grocers have hired a lobbyist to seriously pursue the interest to be included in plans

Governor Mike DeWine initiated any question of his position on legalizing sports wagering and the state of Ohio’s current opinion on the subject. Speaking at a press conference this week he said “Sports gambling is already in Ohio. Ohio is just not regulating it.

According to Gov. DeWine, it is not a matter of “if” but rather “when” sports gambling will be legalized in Ohio. Asked about the state’s stance on sports gaming, DeWine said that it was “inevitable” that it would be legalized in Ohio.

It has been almost three years since the US Supreme Court has reversed PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992), allowing each state the right to allow for legalized sports wagering. By the end of 2021, as many as 25-30 US states may see legalized sports betting in operation or acting upon legislation progress. This is the first time Ohio seems to be joining the list taking serious action to be included.

A bill to legalize sporting gambling passed in the Ohio House last May, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 presidential election have since delayed the state’s timeline. While the Ohio Senate introduced its own sports gaming bill in March of 2019, it has not seen movement in over a year.

Regarding progress the Ohio legislation is now accomplishing moving forward DeWine said:

The members of the general assembly are working that process. I will have the opportunity to see what they came up with. I will have the opportunity to weigh in at the appropriate time. But sports gaming is certainly coming to Ohio.

Geography and Nearby Competition a Catalyst

The incentive for Ohio to seriously move ahead like other US states regarding the sports wagering issue seems to be based on geography.

Ohio is surrounded by states that have been performing extremely well from the start of legislating sports betting. Pennsylvania is now into their second year seeing record results with Indiana also receiving excellent returns. Bordering Michigan is quickly leaping into a top-five position in the US with excellent results for online wagering.

Although Ohio has missed out on achieving revenue opportunities, one advantage has allowed the state to view what has worked for other states to best prepare their laws for getting started.

Ohio lawmakers are deciding upon a potential low tax rate for sports wagering gaming revenue. The House Bill from 2020 suggested a small 8% gross gaming revenue (GGR). Looking at other states’ much higher GGR since that time may alter that suggestion. Should that 8% be passed on and signed by Gov. DeWine it would be among the lowest in the US.

Ohio Grocers Want a Piece

While the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming met for the third time last week, they brought testimony from several stakeholders pushing to legalize sports betting including major sportsbook operators and responsible gaming advocates.

One group included among the supporters was a bit unusual from the typical prototypes, the state’s food grocers.

Joe Ewig, a lobbyist representing the Ohio Grocers Association, told Ohio lawmakers that the group’s members have demonstrated the ability to conduct gaming by handling lottery ticket sales. Also, the supermarket trade association has more than 500 businesses as members. He added that alone, the 600 grocery store locations sold more than 313 million lottery tickets.

In making a case for the Ohio grocers to be included in the state’s future sports wagering plans Ewig concluded:

We recognize that there are a lot of different concepts and proposals on how sports gaming will function and be structured in Ohio. To that end, we are not here today to advocate for opening a sportsbook in each grocery store, having tables set up through our locations or isles. But we ask you to consider making us a part of the sports gaming system.

In summation that would mean allowing the Ohio Lottery to offer sports wagering. In an ideal structure, Ewig said that would occur through existing lottery terminals already available in the state’s grocery and convenience stores.

Next Steps for Ohio

There is little information to currently process suggesting the exact date sports wagering might be operating in Ohio. Research from marketing research firm Eilers & Krejcik conducted last year has suggested a potential $600 million-plus GGR per year opportunity for the state.

The most hopeful news for sports bettors in Ohio is hearing Gov. DeWine’s enthusiastic acknowledgment and the state’s plans now to be put into action.

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Larry Gibbs

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.

Email: [email protected]