Joshua Morrison/News
Joshua Morrison/News

 

MOUNT VERNON — By request, State Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-68th House District) provided the Mount Vernon News with an update on sports betting in Ohio, with 19 states — including the neighboring states of Indiana, West Virginia, and now Michigan — allowing wagers to be placed on football, basketball and other sports. States that have thus far approved sports betting follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in June of 2018 that made it permissible for states to engage in sports wagering on their terms. It had long been confined only to Nevada.

Carfagna is a member of the House Finance Committee, which is considering one of two bills on sports wagering in the Ohio Legislature, House Bill 194. He answered a series of questions concerning the state’s likely roll-out of sports betting and offered that while he is generally in favor of a sensible, well-regulated and taxed sports wagering industry in Ohio, it is still most likely at least 10 months to nearly three years away from state launch due to regulatory issues and logistics involving which potential sites would be allowed to offer sports bets, including mobile betting.

In the meantime, Carfagna said, the state of Ohio is losing out on millions in potential revenue as other states make huge profits and fine-tune their rules on sports wagering as needed.

“For every year that elapses since that point (since the 2018 US Supreme Court ruling), Ohio is forfeiting roughly $18 million to $24 million in annual revenue,” Carfagna said, noting as proposed the state’s revenue would come from tax revenue including a gross gaming revenue tax of 10 percent on all bets. “Given the existence of sports gambling in Ohio through either the black market or unregulated online outlets, the opportunity is right for Ohio to legitimize sports betting in a responsible manner.”

But unlike three of Ohio’s neighboring states, including Michigan, where sports wagering was approved late last year and will go live next month, Ohio’s lawmakers are still some distance from approving sports betting on football, basketball and other sports, he said. Each Ohio General Assembly lasts two years, he noted, and the second half of the 133rd General Assembly is well underway.

“I’m very confident that we could have some form of legalized sports wagering within three years, at least by the end of the next two-year General Assembly (Dec. 31, 2022),” Carfagna said. “While it’s entirely possible that we could get something finalized over these next 10 months, it will be a challenge with both the election season and the other issues at hand underway at the Ohio Statehouse.”

One major issue to be resolved is which state regulatory agency would control sports betting, and which agency would be the investigative body. Carfagna and fellow members of the House Finance Committee have been considering House Bill 194, with eight hearings to date. It would award control to the Ohio Lottery Commission and investigative responsibilities to the Ohio Casino Commission. It asks that a 10 percent tax on all bets be earmarked for education and gambling addiction programs. Another proposal, Senate Bill 111, would give control to the Ohio Casino Commission and has been given two hearings to date, he said. Both bills have bipartisan joint sponsors.

Another significant issue is where to allow sports betting to occur and whether to do so incrementally or more of a full-tilt approach including mobile/online betting. As proposed, House Bill 194 would legalize sports wagers in Ohio’s casinos, racinos, veterans and fraternal organizations, and via the Internet and mobile devices for people ages 21 and older. Additional venues could include, as two examples, bowling alleys and sports bars, Carfagna added.

“There are a handful of contentious issues, including which venues should/should not be eligible to offer sports gambling, as well as whether collegiate sports should be included and, if so, to what extent,” Carfagna said.

Still another major issue is whether to allow betting on college sports and to what extent, he said. Some states, such as New Jersey, have taken a cautious approach and do not allow wagers on New Jersey college teams.

“I worry about making it widely accessible right off the bat, and then having to curtail the practice because it wasn’t properly administered from the beginning,” Carfagna said. “I do believe that collegiate athletics should be included, however I would be agreeable to limiting it to NCAA Division I football and basketball initially – these are the sports of most wagering interest, and that list can always be expanded once it’s been properly rolled out.”

Offering more insight into potential betting on college sports, including college sports teams in Ohio, Carfagna noted Ohio has 14 public universities along with two Division I independent colleges, the University of Dayton and Xavier University. Again, an incremental approach on this topic is likely the best one, he offered.

“If we were to add guardrails around collegiate betting, I think that limiting wagers to just football and basketball on these institutions first would be a good starting point and likely would encapsulate most of the interest in NCAA sports betting anyways,” Carfagna said. “I understand the need for both strong enforcement measures and vigilance at the school level to make sure that the integrity of games are not being compromised. It might be more prudent to initially limit the number of schools and sporting events to avoid any widespread unfunded mandates, particularly on smaller schools that are ill-prepared to police their athletic programs for suspicious behavior.”

As for what can continue to happen in the state Legislature this year, Carfagna said he expects more debate and revisions to continue on House Bill 194, which is sponsored by fellow state representatives Dave Greenspan and Brigid Kelly. He believes that progress can be significant.

“I hope prior to year-end we can advance this legislation out of committee, get a floor vote, and move it to the Senate to at least demonstrate our support,” he said.

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Larry Di Giovanni: 740-397-5333 or larry@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews