Efforts to Bring Sports Gambling to Ohio Stall as Legislative Session Ends

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Many states, upon hearing that the US Supreme Court had given PASPA its rightful place in the dead legislation cemetery in 2018, began working on ways to break into sports gambling. The burgeoning US industry has seen a lot of support since then, with approximately 30 states able to put together the legislative framework and guidance to establish their own markets. Ohio isn’t one of them. It doesn’t look like it will be for some time to come, either. State lawmakers, despite having had over two years to get something done, still cannot figure out how to create sports gambling laws, even though they have 30 other examples from which to draw information.

Ohio’s Sports Gambling Market On Hold

For over two years, Ohio lawmakers have been addressing variations of sports gambling legislation. However, unlike states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania that managed to create their frameworks in a matter of months, the Buckeye State is still a long way from the finish line. According to local media, lawmakers tried to include some last-minute amendments ahead of the end of the legislative session, which didn’t sit well with their counterparts. Not even support from major sports teams in the state was enough to get lawmakers to put aside their personal acrimony to steer the legislation to a successful end.

The old saying “Too many cooks spoil the pot” is appropriate for Ohio’s legalized sports gambling efforts. Too many versions were being worked on, with sponsors convinced that their version was the only correct one. Some wanted 65 licenses; some wanted 58. Some wanted an open sports gambling market; some wanted a closed market. As the legislative session comes to an end today, no one got what they wanted, and Ohio’s sports gambling market will be delayed once again.

Better Luck Next Time

Like a team losing the final championship game, there’s always next year. In this case, next year is the next legislative session, which will begin in September. Some lawmakers are prepared to spend the summer months addressing the menagerie of sports gambling bills on the table, with House Speaker Bob Cupp saying legalization will be a “top priority” when lawmakers return in the fall. It’s been a top priority for more than two years, so, hopefully, this is the final and definitive top priority.

If there’s any good news that has surfaced during the debacle, it would be that Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has shown his support for college athletes. Realizing that state leaders weren’t going to be able to resolve their differences in a timely manner, he used his position at the top of the ladder to legalize a bill regarding name, image and likeness (NIL) rights for college athletes, joining a handful of other states that have already approved similar legislation. Governor DeWine used an executive order to get the job done, and college athletes in the state now have legal backing to profit through any NIL agreements they sign. The NCAA isn’t happy, having lost a Supreme Court battle to prevent NIL from advancing across the country, but that’s the way the basketball bounces.   

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