COLUMBUS, Ohio – Nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court has legalized sports betting outside of Nevada, a bill in the Ohio General Assembly would legalize the wagers in casinos, racinos and other places with video lottery terminals.
Senate Bill 111 is sponsored by Sens. John Eklund, a Geauga County Republican, and Sean O’Brien, a Bazetta Democrat. The Northeast Ohio lawmakers sponsored a “placeholder” bill last year that lacked specifics but was intended to help the legislature amass information on the industry, which informed them on this year’s bill.
Several states have beaten Ohio, and have legalized sports wagers months ago. However, Eklund said Thursday he’s not in a rush. He wants to get the law right, he said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re first or last,” he said. “The object is to be the best.”
Under SB 111, people must be 21 to bet.
Other aspects of the bill include:
- Employees of legal sports wagering businesses could not participate in bets.
- Sports wagering operators could have mobile apps, along with their online website, for their sports pool.
- The server hosting the website would have to be within a legal gaming facility or another secure facility in the U.S. that is owned or operated by the sports wagering operator or its management services provider, a company it contracts with to run the online pool.
- Online players would have to establish accounts under their actual names and not through a beneficiary. Bets could be accepted through the player’s account.
Under SB 111, the Ohio Casino Control Commission would regulate the games of chance:
- Casino operators and racinos or video lottery terminal sales agents would apply to the commission for certificates to conduct sports wagering.
- The commission would adopt a rules with qualifications for someone to become a sports wagering operator.
- A nonrefundable $10,000 fee would be required with the application for the first certificate issued.
- Five years after sports betting begins at a business, casino operators or video lottery terminal sales agents would have to pay $100,000 to the commission, and $100,000 every subsequent five years.
- Sports wagering operators could contract with licensed management service providers to conduct sports wagering – including an online pool. The bill outlines fees that the service providers would have to pay.
Sports wagering operators would pay a tax to the state of 6.25 percent of what Eklund said was the house’s “net take,” which means gross income minus some expenses that the law would allow.
Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, who has the power to usher bills quickly through the legislative process or slow them down, has said he doesn’t think the legislature has the power to regulate sports betting. He thinks it should be decided by the voters in a constitutional amendment. Obhof said he personally wouldn’t vote for a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting because he’s not interested in expanding gambling in Ohio.
Eklund said that there are other lawmakers who are interested in hearing a debate and considering legalizing sports betting in Ohio.
“There’s certainly interest in having a discussion and working it though the process,” he said.