Lawmakers have introduced twin bills in the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate to legalize sports betting in Ohio. Though each bill is little more than a placeholder, they represent significant forward progress for sports betting in the Buckeye State.
“There are no preconceived notions as to what that pathway may look like, nor is there a timeline,” State Representative David Greenspan told WCMH-TV in Columbus. Greenspan is the primary sponsor of the bill in the House.
The bill, HB 714, states its official purpose as an expression “of intent to develop and enact legislation legalizing sports wagering.” Its companion in the Senate, S 316, has the same language for its title.
Lawmakers want input from the public
Sens. John Eklund and Sean O’Brien are the primary sponsors for the Senate version. The Senate bill already has three co-sponsors who have signed onto it.
Eklund and O’Brien’s partnership is significant due to each senator’s party affiliations. Eklund, a Republican, and O’Brien, a Democrat, hope to fill in the details on the bipartisan bill by September.
O’Brien told Cleveland.com that part of the bill’s vagueness to generate interest from the public. He wants to get feedback from stakeholders in the public about what they want for Ohio’s sports betting.
There are already concerns about sports betting’s effects
Representatives from several groups have already expressed concern about how legalized sports betting would affect vulnerable demographics of Ohioans. The Problem Gambling Network of Ohio identifies males between 18 and 25 as the most at-risk population to develop unhealthy habits.
“I think for 18 year olds you’re opening a can of worms because it’s the first time that they’re coming to college,” said Dixie Jeffers, head coach of women’s basketball at Capital University. “As a parent, I would be petrified to have to deal with that, (and) as a coach it very much scares me.”
According to recent data, the bigger concern would be the deepening of existing habits. Rather than creating new players, increased availability and associated marketing would likely worsen already-troubled bettors, regardless of their age group.
For his part, O’Brien shares those concerns. One of the parameters he wants is to limit sports betting to existing gambling facilities only.
“My thinking right now is we already have casinos and racinos set up,” O’Brien said. “I’d kind of like to keep it in those institutions because they are set up for gaming. I’m not sure we want it in every 7-Eleven …and every bar.”
However, time may be of the essence for the state, regardless of how deliberate the sponsors want to be. Both Pennsylvania and West Virginia have already legalized sports betting, and more nearby states are certain to follow.
“This is the beginning of the process,” Greenspan told WOSU. “If Ohio is going to participate in this type of activity, I believe that we would be prudent in being an early adopter.”