Ohio Governor Signs Sports Betting Bill

Ohio State Buckeyes mascot Brutus. Emilee Chinn/Getty Images/AFP

Legal sports wagering can begin in Ohio next year after Governor Mike DeWine signed HB 29 into law yesterday. 

The bill allows pro sports teams, casinos, and racinos to apply for master sports betting licenses. There are 25 of these master licenses up for grabs, and each one costs $2 million. 

Each licensee will then be permitted to host one online sports betting skin on its master license, before adding a second skin if that sportsbook can prove it would provide incremental value to the state’s sports wagering industry. 

It means there could eventually be 50 online sportsbooks in the Buckeye State, leaving it with one of the most open and competitive markets in the country. 

Building a Whole New Industry 

The bill passed through both chambers of the Ohio legislature last week after several months of negotiations and amendments. 

The various tweaks removed the need for sportsbooks to use official league data for live betting, and they ensured licenses will run for five years as opposed to three. Betting on esports was also permitted, but lawmakers resisted a push to allow fixed-odds betting on horse racing. 

The sports betting industry will be overseen by the Ohio Casino Control Commission. A 10% tax will be charged on gross gaming revenue. The majority will be spent on the state’s education system, although 2% is earmarked for problem gambling programs. 

The Ohio Legislative Service Commission estimates that sports gambling will produce more than $3.35 billion in revenue per year by the end of the decade. Some analysts believe the sports betting handle in Ohio could reach $12 billion when mature, with $1 billion in revenue and around $100 million in tax revenue. 

Lawmakers are therefore keen to kick things off quickly. “We want to get this up and running as soon as possible, but we’re building a whole new industry,” Sen. Kirk Schuring of Canton said. 

At the latest, sports betting in Ohio will begin on January 1, 2023, but lawmakers expect it to be rolled out sooner than that. 

A Major Market of the Future 

Ohio becomes the 33rd state to officially legalize sports wagering. Neighboring states Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan have mature legal sports betting industries. 

The Buckeye State should become one of the country’s largest sports betting markets. It is the seventh largest state by population and GDP, and it has eight professional sports teams, along with 13 colleges with NCAA Division I athletics, and various MLS and minor league teams. 

The eight pro sports teams, four casinos, and 11 racinos in Ohio are all expected to apply for lucrative master licenses. 

Ohio’s population is marginally smaller than Pennsylvania and Illinois, which have the third and fourth-largest sports betting industries in the country right now. 

The bill also permits retail sports betting, while bars and restaurants will also be permitted to add sports betting kiosks. 

“This is much more than a sports gaming bill, it’s an economic development bill that addresses an issue already happening,” said Sen. Schuring. This will make it legal, and generate not only business development but revenue for the state.”