Ohio State legislature takes major steps to legalize sports betting and online gambling

Ohio State legislature takes major steps to legalize sports betting and online gambling
Image © Kimberly P. Mitchell via Imagn Content Services, LLC
✍️ Written by
Alicia Butler
🗓 Updated
May 19th 2023

On December 8, 2021, both the Ohio State House and Senate passed HB 29, the bill to legalize sports betting and online betting.

The road to legalizing sports betting and online gambling in Ohio has been long and windy. To be honest, we weren’t certain that this current form of the sports betting and online gambling bill would be approved by both chambers (and signed by the governor) without a hitch. 

But it looks like, after months and years of deliberation, sports betting and online gambling will be ready and platforms will be accepting bets by no later than the first day of 2023. 

Major Players in Legalizing Sports Betting & Online Gambling: The Who’s Who in Ohio

The major players in legalizing sports betting and online gambling in Ohio include Rep. Bill Seitz and Sen. Kirk Schuring

Several Ohio lawmakers have also been in support of making betting more accessible throughout the state, including Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. 

Both Schuring and Seitz have been working to get HB 29 passed in the House and the Senate, but the two have faced several details that have derailed this effort for months (and technically years since the idea of legalizing sports betting and online betting has been on the table. 

Back in 2020, Sen. John Eklund, House Rep. David Greenspan, and Sen. Sean O’Brien were all left office, leaving a big question mark as to whether or not sports betting or online gambling would be legalized any time soon. 

Luckily, politicians in both chambers were able to come to an agreement — be it a slow one — that has paved the way for both types of betting to be legalized in 2022. 

Benefits of Legalizing Betting in Ohio: The Cases for a Path to Gambling Legalization

There are clearly some major benefits to legalizing online casinos and sports betting in Ohio. 

While many states are jumping on the sports betting and online casino bandwagon, Ohio is one state that could really see some immediate benefits from legalizing this type of betting within the state. 

The biggest benefits to legalizing these two types of betting in the Buckeye state include increased state tax revenue, job creation, and preventing tax dollars from traveling to bordering states. 

State Tax Revenue

One of the major reasons states want to legalize sports betting and online betting is the opportunity to collect more tax revenue.

States that have already legalized these types of betting have seen firsthand the fiscal benefits of doing so. New Jersey, Connecticut, and Michigan have all seen an increase in tax revenue during heavy sports betting months.

Though it took many states a beat to start seeing big numbers, football season in 2021 was a major driving force behind the boost in sports betting and gambling revenue for these states.

New Jersey has beat its own sports betting record three times: first in September, then in October, and again in November.  

Job Creation

Legalizing sports betting should also help with job creation in Ohio, too. 

When sportsbooks expand their offerings, they need to hire more staff. Since right now the only sportsbooks legally allowed to operate are pari-mutuels and racinos, entirely new land-based sportsbooks will probably open once sports betting is legalized.

Ohio plans on allowing sports teams and event spaces to apply for sports betting skins (skins were one of the points that legislatures were hung up on during the whole legalization process). This should equate to more workers needed for such land-based sportsbooks. 

Land-based casinos will probably also apply for sports betting skin, meaning these establishments will also need to hire more workers, too. 

Though much of online gambling operations are based virtually, online, the state expects that job creation will increase thanks to the legalization of online betting, too.

Preventing Tax Dollars From Going to Bordering States 

Ohio is bordered by five states, four of which have already legalized sports betting and/or online betting. If you want to bet legally on sports, you may do so in:

  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia

If you want to place bets online, you merely need to cross the border into Michigan, Pennsylvania, or West Virginia to log onto an app and do so. 

Since many of Ohio’s residents are already traveling to other states to bet on sports and place online bets, it makes sense that the state legislature would want to legalize these types of betting in the Buckeye State, as doing would keep tax dollars in the state. 

Legalizing Sports Betting in Ohio

Ohio state legislatures obviously see some benefits in legalizing sports betting in Ohio. Currently, it’s not illegal to bet on any type of sporting event within the state. There are a few types of sports bets that residents may legally place without the need to travel across state lines.

Current Ohio Sports Betting Options

The two current land-based sports betting options in Ohio include pari-mutuel and racino sportsbooks. The state also allows residents 18 years and older to participate in daily fantasy sports, and there are several online sportsbooks already accepting bets from Ohio residents.

Racinos/Pari-Mutuel Sportsbooks

Racinos and pari-mutuel sportsbooks have accepted bets from Ohioans for decades. 

These two land-based types of sportsbooks have evaded otherwise somewhat strict sports betting laws in Ohio since the 1930s. 

Three of the state’s major cities are home to race tracks, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Youngstown. Online horse betting is also legal in Ohio, and online racinos, such as BetAmerica, TVG, and TwinSpires have been accepting online horse racing bets for several years now.

Daily Fantasy Sports

Finally, it’s also totally legal to bet on daily fantasy sports in Ohio. You only need to be 18 years or older (not 21 years old) to place bets on fantasy sports.

You can even bet on fantasy sports online in Ohio. 

Several of the major online sports betting platforms run daily fantasy sports and accept bets from Ohio residents, including DraftKings, FanDuel, and Yahoo! Sports.

Ohio Sports Betting Apps

Ohio is also planning on launching online sports betting in 2022. 

While we don’t yet know which companies will secure sports betting skins, the state is planning on allowing for at least 25 skins, and some sportsbooks will be able to apply for more than one — as long as they can prove the benefit doing so will provide the state.

Just some of the sports betting apps we anticipate will apply for sports betting skins this year include DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, WynnBET, Caesars, and PointsBet

The timing of legalizing both sports betting and online betting in Ohio couldn’t be better. 

Legalizing Online Gambling in Ohio

It’s not just sports betting that’s getting some love from Ohio state legislators, either. The state has been trying to legalize online gambling for the past few years as well.

Currently, there are several ways Ohioans can legally place bets.

Current Ohio Gambling Options

The current legal gambling options in Ohio are somewhat limited. As of now, state residents of legal gambling age may place bets at the four land-based casinos in the state, in poker games run in private homes or by charities, or online at free online or social casinos. 

Ohio Land-Based Casinos

There are four casinos in Ohio where locals can place bets. These casinos were strategically placed in the four most populous cities in the state, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo. 

Casinos in Ohio are not run by tribal nations, as there are no tribal territories in the state. You’ll find casino games such as slot machines, video slots, and poker at these establishments. 

Racinos also offer video lottery ticket machines — but are not allowed to operate any other casino-type games, such as table games. 

Private and Charity Poker Games

Local Ohioans are allowed to play and bet on poker — as long as they do so in a private residence and don’t pay a fee to play or if they play during an event for charity. 

Free Online Casinos

Free online casinos are one way Ohioans can legally play casino games online.

These platforms are unlike real money casinos. Players purchase virtual currency or enter sweepstakes to receive virtual currency, so free online casinos are classified as sweepstakes instead of casinos. 

Winnings may be paid out as real money or in cash prizes (depending on the platform). 

Ohio Online Casinos

Online casinos are expected to launch in Ohio sometime in 2022 — and no later than the first day of 2023.

Once this happens, we can expect to see platforms run by some of the major names in online casino games (possibly partnering with the four local casinos to do so). 

Delays, Delays & More Delays: Will the Ohio state legislature ever come to an agreement?

It took the Ohio state legislature more than a year to reach an agreement on sports betting and online betting bills. 

On December 8, the House and the Senate voted on the HB29, passing the bill. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for a signature, but Gov. Mike Dewine has been outspoken about his support for legalizing sports betting and online betting in the state, so his signing the bills is expected to happen without a hitch. 

Who will regulate online betting and sports betting in Ohio?

The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) will regulate both sports betting and all types of online betting in the state once betting goes live. 

Ohio Online Gambling & Sports Betting Legalization Timeline

There’s been a long and windy road to online gambling and sports betting legalization in Ohio. The state has been trying to legalize and regulate sports betting and online gambling since at least 2020.

Lawmakers were unable to agree on some of the specifics of betting bills, including bills H194, SB176, and HB29.

2020 Ohio Gambling Legalization Timeline

November 2020: Three key lawmakers who were previously advocating for the legalization of sports betting and online betting, Sen. John Eklund, House Rep. David Greenspan, and Sen. Sean O’Brien, were not reelected for office. Supporters of legal sports betting became worried that the topic would be shelved — along with the politicians that supported it.

December 2020: Legalizing sports betting in Ohio takes a backseat. Lawmakers cannot agree on a number of points in House Bill H194, including sportsbooks to apply for three skins. 

March 2021: Sports betting is back on the docket in the Senate. The Senate Select Committee has been meeting nearly weekly and approaching the idea of legalizing sports betting more deliberately. Gov. Mike DeWine also announces, “it's 'inevitable' Ohio will legalize sports gambling.

Summer 2021 Ohio Gambling Legalization Timeline

May 12, 2021: Sen. Kirk Schuring, one of the major supporters of legalizing betting in Ohio, introduces Senate Bill 176. In it, he suggests allowing for 40 licenses. But there is some pushback regarding some of the finer points of the bill — including the requirement that sportsbooks may not be located at casinos or racinos. 

May 20, 2021: More concerns are voiced over SB176. Ohio professional sports teams want licenses (which Sen. Schuring has already voiced concerns over). Lottery retailers are also unhappy with the bill, stating they won’t be appropriately compensated. Over the course of the next month, many changes will be made to the bill.

June 16, 2021: The Senate passes SB176.

Fall 2021 Ohio Gambling Legalization Timeline

November 8, 2021: Sen. Kirk Schuring, who has spoken extremely optimistically (some criticized possibly overoptimistically) about the legalization of sports betting in the state, gives a local radio interview offering a more realistic idea of when the bills might pass.

December 6, 2021: Sen. Kirk Schuring gives another local radio interview, announcing that the state House and Senate have agreed to terms within the sports betting bills. 

December 8, 2021: HB29 passes in the Ohio House and the Senate. Gov. Mike Dewine is expected to sign the bill, as he has been supportive of legalizing sports betting. 

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About the author
Alicia Butler
Alicia Butler
Editor & Contributor

Since 2011 Alicia has worked as a travel and entertainment writer & editor contributing to widely read digital publications such as The Spruce, The Balance and The Spruce Pets, VeryWell, and TripSavvy. Alicia is a marketing expert, entrepreneur, and avid traveler!

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