Is Sports Betting Legal in Ohio?
Ohio has a very rich tradition in sports betting and is surrounded by states that are moving forward. Kentucky isn’t any hurry to the south, but Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, West Virginia, and Michigan are all moving forward at a much faster pace than the Buckeye State. It isn’t surprising that Republican Governor John Kasich isn’t all that interested in pursuing sports betting right now, but Kasich has created a lot of jobs during his term and this could be a good way to encourage some more job creation. Fortunately, the state legislature is moving forward.
Ohio has four casinos with table games, with one each in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Toledo. Additional racinos are spread out across the state. It actually took until 2009 for Ohio to get the go-ahead to build casinos. State officials finally got tired of money going to Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, West Virginia, and Indiana and voters overwhelmingly passed an amendment to the state constitution to allow for casinos. There are now seven racinos and the four casinos within the state.
Ohio voters have been behind expansions of gaming in the state, as just about every bar now participates in Keno through the Ohio Lottery. Ohio also has the multi-state Mega Millions and also now participates in Powerball. If sports betting is brought to a vote, it would pass with ease in all likelihood. That means it is up to the representatives to figure out how they want to word the language and how they want to pitch it to the electorate.
It is worth pointing out that Governor Kasich cannot run for re-election. It will be Mike DeWine against Richard Cordray. Cordray, the Democratic challenger, was part of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and is the current Attorney General. In an article (login required) for the Columbus Dispatch, DeWine voiced his opposition to sports betting and Cordray voiced his open-mindedness.
Sports betting, if brought to the ballot, would be an issue separate of the partisan politics and would likely get widespread support, but the gubernatorial race and some of the other state races will be very interesting to follow in terms of the timelines for legalization.
Recent News Stories About Sports Betting
In the Columbus Dispatch, a survey of readers and voters suggested that sports betting would pass convincingly if brought to a general vote.
Lawmakers spoke with the Toledo Blade about some of the different proposals that have already been brought to the state legislative floor following the strike down of PASPA. It appears that it could be taken out of the hands of the politicians and put into the hands of the voters, which is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it will pass. The curse is that it will likely have to wait until November 2019.
Rich Exner of Cleveland.com (Cleveland Plain Dealer) addressed some of the nuts and bolts of the PASPA strike down and what it means for Ohio, specifically. Included is the fact that Dan Gilbert owns a large stake in the JACK casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati and that there is a precedent for betting on the NBA in those situations.
The state also has to figure out whether or not third party operators or the lottery will run sports betting. MGM just bought the Hard Rock Rocksino 30 minutes east of Cleveland, so MGM now has a stake in the state and possibly an in if sports betting becomes a thing.
Ohio is a lock to get sports betting, but the timeframe is anybody’s guess. It certainly appears like a November 2019 vote will be required, which is an interesting time for a vote because it is a mid-term election. That means that it would be at the forefront of the general election, so it could bring out supporters on both sides. In breaking it all down, Ohio might be a small underdog to have sports betting by 2020, but 2021 looks like a pretty reasonable timeframe. Once other states get up and running, the urgency will pick up for the Buckeye State.