Hopes for quick passage of Ohio’s sports betting legislation were likely dashed on Friday. That’s after the speaker of the House said he wouldn’t take up a bill that includes expanded gaming language in it by the end of the month.
If the House doesn’t take up House Bill 29 and sign off on the expanded gaming amendment the Senate included in that legislation Thursday night before it adjourns for the summer, then the earliest they could take up the matter would be mid-September.
The Ohio Legislature’s calendar shows the House meeting Monday, with possible meetings also scheduled as “if needed” for Tuesday through Thursday of this week and July 7. But Buckeye State lawmakers also have a budget bill they need to approve by the end of the month, which coincides with Ohio’s fiscal year.
Senate Republican Floor Leader Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) had set this upcoming Wednesday as an artificial deadline for getting a sports betting bill to Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk.
However, according to Statehouse News, House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) considered it “an extremely high lift” to pass sports betting by then.
We have not even had an opportunity for a single committee hearing over here on sports betting,” Cupp said. “I just can’t see it getting done. Would I like to do it? Sure, but I’d like to have it go through committee, have hearings, and that sort of thing as well.”
Earlier this month, the Ohio Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve Senate Bill 176, a standalone bill that legalized sports betting statewide and e-bingo for veteran and fraternal organizations.
Ohio Sports Betting Reset
With the Senate pas.sing two sports betting bills, that means there are two bills before the House. SB 176, the original bill, and HB 29, a bill the House passed regarding veteran identification cards. The latter saw the Senate insert language about gaming and name, image, and likeness rights for college athletes.
The gaming gist of both bills are similar. But Schuring last Thursday night announced some changes in the HB 29 version after he said he conferred with key representatives in the House.
For sports betting, both allow for sports betting to happen online, at retail sportsbooks, and through kiosks at certain lottery retailers. The amended bill in HB 29 expands the number of retail sportsbooks from 33 to 40. It also expands the number of sportsbooks available by county, with the state’s three largest counties – Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Hamilton – now able to have five each.
The amended bill keeps the number of mobile licenses at 25, but it specifies that casino operators with a mobile license can have two “skins,” or online gaming partners. Professional sports teams can have one partner with their licenses.
Ohio has 11 casinos and racinos. The state has eight major professional sports clubs, with three each in Cincinnati and Cleveland and two in Columbus. The Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, a Columbus suburb, would also qualify for sports betting licenses.
Schuring was hopeful for passage by the end of this month, so the regulatory framework could be in place by the end of the year. That would then allow the state to accept license applications on Jan. 1, 2022, with approvals in place by April 1.
Not getting the bill signed into law until September or later may add time to Schuring’s planned time line.
E-bingo May Still Pass This Month
Statehouse News also reported that Senate President Jeff Huffman (R-Lima) said the e-bingo language could be inserted in the budget bill.
If that indeed happens, that language would likely mirror the wording senators approved in HB 29. The amended e-bingo bill reduced the maximum number of machines per location from 10 to seven. The legislation allows veterans and fraternal organizations to offer the games.
In addition, the bill only allows fraternal organizations that are established by this Thursday – July 1 – to offer the machines.
In introducing the amended bill last week, Schuring said that it was fairly easy for fraternal establishments to set up in Ohio. By limiting the machines to just existing organizations, Schuring said that would prevent a potential flood of applications coming in after lawmakers passed the bill.