When Will Ohio Legalize Sports Betting?

The state of Ohio has been in the news a lot recently, and it’s not been in a positive way. In fact, quite the opposite – the state has been through a major ordeal, and it’s been a while since anyone could feel safe, comfortable, or positive about the situation. That is, until now.

Yes, on September 12, 2018, the state of Ohio finally voted to legalize sports betting. The vote was 52-48, and it marks a huge step toward rebuilding the reputation of the state and its people. It has been a tough 15 years since the state’s last legal sportsbook closed its doors, and for a long time, it looked like the dream of a fair and transparent sports wagering industry was just a dream. The wait for legalization was excruciating, to say the least, and it’s clear that a lot of groundwork needed to be laid before the industry could come into its own. That is exactly what has happened, and with the stroke of a pen, a lot of uncertainty and fear about the future was removed. Let’s take a closer look at what happened, how it happened, and what this means for sports bettors and the state of Ohio as a whole.

The Long Wait For Legalization

It all started in 2014, when a bill that would have legalized sports betting in Ohio was approved by the state legislature. The bill was spearheaded by John Russell and introduced to the Ohio House of Representatives. After it passed the House, it had to make its way through the Senate, where it was approved by a vote of 26 to 14. The bill was then sent to Governor John Kasich (R-OH), who had the power to either sign the bill into law or veto it. If he vetoed it, the legislature would have to vote on it again and, in all likelihood, it would pass. It is very likely that Kasich would have signed the bill into law, as he had expressed interest in legal sports betting in the past. However, in 2016, he ran for president and lost, putting an end to any chances of the legislation becoming law. Fortunately, the people of Ohio had other ideas. In fact, they were so sure that the bill would become law that in May of 2018 a group of concerned citizens started a Draft John Kasich for Governor 2020 campaign in order to get the former governor on the ballot.

Even though the bill to legalize sports betting in Ohio had been sitting in a drawer for over five years, individual lobbyists for the betting industry continued to fight for its approval. That is, until the pandemic hit. At first, the state of Ohio tried to keep things lighthearted by making jokes about the situation at hand, but the absurdity of the situation was too much to handle. On April 17, 2020, the legislature was finally able to get a vote in on the matter after the state’s governor, Mike DeWine (R-OH), issued a stay-at-home order. This order effectively suspended all businesses and activities not related to the food industry, including sports betting.

How The Industry Fought For Its Right To Operate

The bill to legalize sports betting in Ohio was originally filed in 2014, and it was only after the virus hit and the state tried to keep things shut down that it was finally able to get a vote on the matter. However, as soon as the pandemic was over and the state started looking for ways to bring back economic growth, the issue of sports betting came up. For years, lobbyists for the gambling industry had been working hard to get the bill passed, and as soon as the pandemic hit and the economy tanked, that same group of lobbyists started working overtime to get the bill passed. As a result, several versions of the bill were introduced, and the matter was constantly re-debated. Finally, in September of this year, the Ohio legislature passed a modified and revamped version of the original bill and sent it to Governor DeWine for his signature. As soon as the bill became law, the lobbyists for the gambling industry began filing lawsuits against the state of Ohio.

The Lawsuits

Within minutes after the law was signed, the attorneys for the gaming industry filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the implementation of the law. Although the industry itself was excited about the news, it wanted to make sure that the legal system would not get in their way. In fact, it sued the state of Ohio, Attorney General Frank Cooper (R), and Sheriff John Walter, among others, arguing that the law would violate their rights and the rights of every citizen in the state. As noted above, the bill to legalize sports betting in Ohio was eventually passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor DeWine, but that did not mean that all of the industry’s issues had been resolved. In fact, it was just the beginning. The lobbyists for the gambling industry will not let this be the end of the story, and they will continue to fight for their right to operate in the state.

What This Means For Sports Bettors

For those who love to bet on sports, this is good news. For years, the state of Ohio has been an issue in the sports betting world. Even today, as the state is making headlines for all the wrong reasons, things still stand in favor of sports bettors. That is, until now. With the legalization of sports betting in Ohio, things are moving in the right direction. Not only does it remove a lot of the uncertainty about the future of sports betting in the state, but it also means that the industry can get back to operating under the radar. In other words, with the legalization of sports betting, Ohioans can finally come out of the shadows and be part of a welcoming and open community that accepts them for who they are.

However, it does not mean that the opposition has given up. In fact, the gambling industry will not be able to simply walk through the door and begin taking over the state. First, the state has to set up a regulatory structure that the casinos and bookmakers must follow. Once that is done, the state has to work out any issues that might arise from the fact that these industries will now be regulated by the state and its citizens. In other words, the state still has a lot to do before it can truly say that it has a well-established and thriving sports betting industry, but at least it is a step in the right direction.

In the end, it is safe to say that the state of Ohio did not exactly do itself any favors by taking so long to decide whether or not to legalize sports betting. It would have been better to have left this matter for the voters to decide. At least then, there would be no question about whether or not the legislation would become law. In addition, the state did not exactly have clean hands in this matter. Lobbyists for the gambling industry, in particular, worked hard to get the bill passed for a long time, and it shows. In fact, the entire process was mired in controversy from the very beginning. That is until now.