The Ohio legislature will soon begin discussing what online casino gaming could bring the state.
Although there is no iGaming bill in Ohio, legislators will discuss the topic at a hearing Feb. 20.
Online casino talks will be part of what Ohio lawmakers are calling the Ohio Sports Gaming Study Committee. Despite the title, sports gaming will only be a topic at one of the four committee meetings this session.
Over the four sessions, the committee will look at the entirety of the Ohio gambling industry, potential changes needed and possibilities for future expansion. Rep. Jay Edwards and Sen. Nathan Manning will serve as co-chairs of the committee.
“iGaming will be a big topic, I’m sure,” Edwards told PlayUSA. “I think there will be a big fight between the online platforms, the skins that already exist, versus the current brick and mortar casinos that are offering those products now.”
No Ohio online casino bill expected this year
With three states surrounding Ohio already offering online casino in Pennsylvania, Michigan and West Virginia, it figures that Ohio would want to take a serious look at legalization.
In 2021, sports betting legislation came out of a Senate Select Committee on Gaming and passed later that session. Edwards doesn’t expect, but didn’t rule out, a bill to come out of the committee this session.
“Really we’re not pushing to get this done. There’s no bill introduced or anything like that. What we’re trying to do is start the conversation, get best practices, educate members and allow regulators some input on the process so that when we are ready, we can start to implement that.”
More likely, the discussion could inform a bill introduced in 2025. The Ohio Casino Control Commission is the only one scheduled for the committee at this early stage. But Edwards said they will invite industry testimony and public comment.
The legislature will work on the next two-year budget in the 2025 session. The state is likely to look more seriously at Ohio online casinos during a budget year when revenue is needed.
“Financially, we’re looking pretty good right now,” Edwards said. “But I think there may be some time in the future when the state looks for money, and iGaming is obviously a big revenue generator. I do think it’s coming. I don’t think it’s a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. And I just want people to be prepared because I saw during the sports gaming discussions that not a lot of members were educated on the topic.”
Committee will consider sports betting changes
The gaming committee will hold three additional meetings this session:
- Feb. 22: iLottery
- March 19: Racinos/charitable gaming
- March 20: Sports betting and daily fantasy sports
Ohio lawmakers already made one big change to sports betting last year, doubling the tax rate from 10% to 20%.
Reps. Jeff LaRe and Cindy Abrams and Sens. Al Landis and Terry Johnson will join Edwards and Manning on the committee, along with one minority party (Democrat) member from each chamber.
Ohio regulators have taken aim at daily fantasy sports apps that offer contests blurring the lines between fantasy games and sports betting.
Edwards said he thought more legislative changes to the Ohio sports betting framework could come out of the committee.
“When we debated it, there were a lot of interested parties that came away happy and some that came away upset. Now it’s time for us to go back, look at what we did and see what we got right and what we got wrong. And if there’s changes needed, we can make the changes.”