Sponsors of Ohio Sports Betting Bills Optimistic on a Deal

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Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) — Efforts to legalize sports betting in Ohio have made halting progress more than a year after bills were introduced in the House and Senate, although sponsors of the conflicting legislation believe a deal can be reached.

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The main difference between the two bills is who would regulate sports betting. The House bill approved in late May said it should be the Ohio Lottery Commission. The Senate version said says it should be the Casino Control Commission.

Neighboring Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana already offer sports betting at casinos. Fifteen other states allow sports betting. An additional five have legalized it but don’t yet offer it.

The Ohio House bill would legalize sports betting at the state’s four casinos, at seven horse racing tracks called racinos, and online via mobile apps and kiosks at fraternal and veterans organizations with full liquor licenses. The bill directs 10% of gross betting receipts to education, with a small portion funding gambling treatment and prevention.

The Senate version allows for sports betting at casinos, racinos, mobile apps and online and does not specify where 6.25% in tax receipts would go. The last hearing for the Senate’s version was in November as the coronavirus pandemic has slowed legislative work.

Rep. Dave Greenspan, a Westlake Republican and one of the primary sponsors of the House bill, said estimates show sports betting would raise about $15 million in taxes the first year and around $50 million annually as the industry matures. The state’s operating budget for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 totals $69 billion.

Both chambers have strong Republican majorities. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has previously said he favors the Senate version. A spokesman did not return a message seeking comment.

Greenspan said the nonpartisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission has provided opinions, the most recent last week, indicating that the only way sports betting would pass constitutional muster in the state is if it were regulated by the Lottery Commission.

He expects that the primary sponsors of the two bills would meet at some point to work out a deal.

“Absolutely, we’ll be able to come to a resolution on this,” Greenspan said. “We just haven’t had an opportunity to have a robust discussion with the Senate yet. We’ve got to get this done and up and operating.”

Bill sponsor Sen. John Eklund, a Republican from Munson Township, said he remains cautious but “hopeful” that something can be worked out this year.

“I’m done anticipating anything,” Eklund said. “I think we’re in a very uncertain time to say the least on any number of different levels.”

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