Casino-Friendly Changes Made To Ohio Sports Betting Legalization Bill

Changes are being made to legislation that would legalize sports betting in Ohio, with details about a redrafted version of Senate Bill 176 presented to the Ohio Senate’s Select Committee on Gaming.

Posted: May 13, 2021 5:33 PM ET Updated: May 13, 2021 5:33 PM ET
Casino-Friendly Changes Made To Ohio Sports Betting Legalization Bill
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Changes are already being made to recently introduced legislation that would legalize sports betting in Ohio, including a tweak that would now allow for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks to be opened up on the premises of casinos and horse-racing tracks in the Buckeye State.

Details about a redrafted version of Senate Bill 176 was presented on Wednesday to the Ohio Senate’s Select Committee on Gaming, following the unveiling of the legislation just one week ago.  

One of the sponsors of SB 176, Republican Senator Nathan Manning, told the committee that the changes would mean the 20 potential “Type A” licenses, which would allow holders to offer online betting, would require those entities to “have or create a substantial” presence in the state.

“We want a free market, but we also don't want the wild, wild, west.”
- Sen. Nathan Manning

Another change to the bill is that a Type A license holder could now subcontract with as many mobile apps as they want, rather than being limited to just one brand name per license. 

The initial version of SB 176 had also said that there would be 20 possible "Type B" licenses for physical sportsbooks. That would remain the case, according to Manning, but there would no longer be a ban on existing casinos and race-track casinos (or racinos) having one on their premises, which was what the original version of the bill said. 

“These licenses are not limited to anyone as long as they can prove to the Ohio Casino Control Commission that they are in good standing and can bank the bet,” Manning said during the committee hearing.

The substitute version of the bill adopted on Wednesday would set out that the commission could use a “regional factor” to try to create economic growth with the Type B licenses, the senator added. Language that would have set up a “first-come-first-serve” process for those licenses has been taken out of the legislation as well. 

“We want a free market, but we also don't want the wild, wild, west,” Manning said. 

Further changes a possibility 

More changes to SB 176 are still possible as it works its way through the Republican-controlled Senate. It must also pass through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives before it can be sent to Republican Governor Mike DeWine to be signed into law. The Senate's gaming committee is scheduled to meet again on May 19. 

However, even with changes, the legislation could ultimately unlock a major market in the United States for sports betting if it is passed. Companies are likely keen to jump into that market, as Ohio is the seventh-most populous state in the U.S. 

There is also a third avenue for sports betting in SB 176, which is a sports-wagering system run through state lottery retailers. That product would involve $20 fixed-price betting pools in which the winners would split the money from the losing side. 

“Including Ohio's retailers in sports betting is incredibly important, as legalizing sports betting should primarily seek to help Ohio businesses,” said Republican Senator Niraj Antani, Manning’s co-sponsor of the bill, during the hearing.

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