Dec 10, 2021 - Sports

Ohio lawmakers approve bill to legalize sports betting

Illustration of a stack of hundred dollar bills underneath a football field.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Legalized sports betting in Ohio is now a sure bet.

Driving the news: State lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday to allow sports betting online and in various locations across Ohio as early as next year.

Why it matters: Sports betting is a massive industry, with $27 billion legally wagered by Americans in the first seven months of 2021 alone.

  • States like Pennsylvania have collected tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue and now Ohio is poised to jump into the action.

Context: Gambling on sports was widely outlawed until a 2018 Supreme Court ruling made it possible for states to enact their own regulated betting programs.

  • There was no question sports betting would eventually come to the Buckeye State, but lawmakers struggled to agree on the details and varying interests lobbied to secure a slice of the pie.

What's happening: The Ohio General Assembly opted for a balanced approach to legalize sports betting in a variety of settings.

  • Ohioans 21 and up will be able to place bets on college and pro sports, car races and the Olympics.

How it works: The state will divvy up sports betting licenses starting in 2022 and we'll have a better sense of where Ohioans can place bets once they are distributed.

  • Large entities able to "bank the bet" will be eligible for online betting licenses as well as those for brick-and-mortar locations — think casinos and pro sports arenas.
  • A smaller number of licenses will go to bars and restaurants scattered throughout the state offering betting kiosks with low-level wagering.

By the numbers: Betting operators will be taxed at 10% of their net revenue.

  • Nearly all the taxes collected will go toward K-12 education, athletics and other school programs.

The bottom line: Sports betting is already happening in Ohio through unregulated bookies and shady offshore websites.

  • Lawmakers see this as a way of pulling the wagering out of the shadows and into a well-regulated, taxable system.
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