One of the principal lawmakers behind the push to legalize sports betting in Ohio said earlier this week that a conference committee could begin meeting as early as next week to hammer out a final bill that would go to Gov. Mike DeWine.
Senate Majority Leader Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, said in an interview Monday on 1480 WHBC that Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, is trying to meet this week with Speaker of the House Bob Cupp, R-Lima, to identify what the House wants in a sports betting bill.
If that meeting occurs, then the conference committee would start work on a compromise bill that both chambers would need to approve.
Schuring likened the process to the how leaders hash out the state budget.
We’re getting there,” the senator said. “I’m really looking forward to the meeting this week with Speaker Cupp. I know he’s had meetings with some of his members, particularly the members from the conference committee, and so, we’re hoping we’re reaching a point of critical mass where we can finally get this done.”
The conference committee is needed because the Senate in late June – after passing a standalone bill earlier that month – attached an amended version of the gaming bill to House Bill 29, which creates a state identification card for veterans. The hope was that the House would consent to the changes, which would have sent the bill to DeWine before lawmakers adjourned for a summer recess. However, the House did not call up the bill.
What’s Currently in the Bill
The sports betting bill in the Senate’s version of HB29 allows for up to 40 retail sportsbooks across the state. It also allows for up to 25 mobile sports betting licenses, while giving certain liquor permit holders the ability to have sports betting kiosks in their establishments.
The retail sportsbooks must be located in a county with a minimum population of 100,000. Counties with more than 400,000 people can have up to three brick-and-mortar facilities, while the state’s three counties with at least 800,000 people – Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Hamilton – can have up to five.
Besides casinos, major professional sports teams can partner with sports betting operators for a retail sportsbook and an online application. That also includes the Muirfield Village Golf Club, which hosts the PGA Tour’s The Memorial Tournament each year.
The sports betting bill also had provisions for fraternal organizations to install e-bingo machines at their facilities. However, that provision ended up making it into the budget bill that DeWine signed in July.
Springtime for Ohio Sports Betting?
Schuring also provided an updated timeline on when licenses for sports betting operators could be approved.
In June, supporters were hopeful that the Ohio Casino Control Commission would be able to issue licenses by April 1. The Senate Republican floor leader told the radio station this week that is now more likely to happen around the end of April.
The main reason for that is that in Ohio laws do not take effect until 90 days after they’ve been signed by the governor. So a bill signed in November would not officially take effect until February, and at that time, the state could start implementing regulations pertaining to sports betting.
“What we’ve done in our recommendations, the Senate recommendations, we are saying that the start date for the applications to be submitted would be on Feb. 15, and then that first round of applications approved or disapproved no later than April 30,” Schuring said.