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Ohio House and Senate pass sports betting bill; awaits governor's approval

The Ohio House of Representatives and Senate have passed a bill that would legalize sports betting in the state.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After more than three years and several stops and starts, the Ohio General Assembly has finally passed a bill that would legalize sports betting in the Buckeye State.

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On Wednesday, the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate voted to pass House Bill 29, which would legalize sports betting in the state by the end of 2022. The legislation passed by a wide, bipartisan margin in both chambers.

The bill now waits approval from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who stated earlier this year that it was only a matter of time before sports gaming was legalized in the state.

"Sports gaming's already in Ohio; Ohio's just not regulating it," DeWine said in March. "This is something that I think is inevitable. It's coming to Ohio.

"The members of the general assembly are working that process. I will have the opportunity to see what they came up with. I will have the opportunity to weigh in at the appropriate time, but sports gaming is certainly coming to Ohio."

The passing of HB 29 comes after a years' long process that followed the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a national ban on sports gaming in 2018. In the years that have followed, the Ohio House and Senate have created and even passed separate bills that ultimately never came to fruition, before coming to an agreement to move forward with HB 29 this past week.

However, not everyone supports the measure. Rob Walgate with American Policy Roundtable opposes the bill, but not because of the betting aspect.

"This bill has many constitutional questions when it comes to sports gambling," Walgate told 3News.

Under the bill, Casinos, stadiums, bars, and restaurants would all have to apply for a gambling license, and there is even talk you will be able to use your phone to bet with certain apps. But legally, Walgate says there's only one place for sports betting in the state.

"Only in those four brick and mortar casinos [like JACK Casino in Cleveland], based on the 2009 amendment," he said. "To do it anywhere else would need an amendment to the [Ohio] constitution."

Robert Linnehan, sports betting regulatory writer and editor for Big Ten publication Saturday Tradition, lives in New Jersey — one of the first states to legalize sports betting. He says Ohio will have a 10% tax on all gambling revenue, and that it will go to fund education and veteran activities in the state

Jersey makes millions in one month on sports betting, and while it won't be that much in the Buckeye State, Linnehan believes it will be significant.

"Ohio stands to make a chuck of change from this sports betting bill," he said, adding the state is a good market with teams like the Browns, Bengals, Guardians, and Ohio State. "Since it has been legalized in New Jersey, New Jersey has just taken off. They're the powerhouse of sports betting in this country; the last two months there have been over $1 billion bet."

DeWine has 90 days to sign the bill, which passed with a veto-proof majority. If enacted, HB 29 would call for sports gaming in Ohio to be overseen by the state's casino commission and for betting to be available no later than Jan. 1, 2023 — although it could begin much earlier than that. A full copy of the legislation can be viewed below:

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