COLUMBUS, Ohio — Indiana expanded gambling to include sports betting in 2019.
In April, sports wagers in Indiana totaled $360 million – that’s $2.7 million in tax money the state of Indiana collected for that month alone, according to figures from the Indiana Gaming Commission.
Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have all legalized sports betting in recent years. And all have taken in additional tax revenues - millions each year.
Why does that matter?
By the time Ohio enters this space on January 1, 2023 – neighboring states like Indiana will have years’ worth of experience of bettors placing bets on games from inside casinos or on their smartphones.
And by the time Ohio’s universal start date begins on Jan. 1, 2023 Ohio will likely miss out on millions in gambling revenue by missing the start of the NFL season, according to PlayOhio, a website that tracks gambling.
But a spokeswoman for the Ohio Casino Control Commission told 10TV News that the state needs these next months due to the numerous regulatory and compliance processes that have to be completed under Ohio’s new law that allowed for sports betting.
Casinos considering building out additional brick-and-mortar space for sports books; operators of sports betting apps like FanDuel or DraftKings still need to submit the necessary paperwork, and bars and restaurants seeking out an electronic kiosk to allow their patrons to the bet as well also need to submit an application.
All of that will require reviews, inspections and compliance checks the Ohio Casino Control Commission and the Ohio Lottery.
“So we know people are very excited about it. But again, we need, we need the time that we need in order to make sure that we're doing this appropriately and to meet all the very strict and detailed requirements that were laid out in the sports gaming law,” Jessica Franks, spokeswoman for the Ohio Casino Control Commission told 10TV News during a recent interview.
When Ohio joins the fold in January, it will leave Kentucky as the lone surrounding state that has not expanded gambling to include sports gaming.
It’s not for a lack of trying.
Former Governor Steve Beshear campaigned on expanding gambling when he was governor more than a decade ago. The efforts fell short.
Now his son, Andy Beshear, is governor.
And in a state with a rich history of sports betting on horse racing, the efforts to expand that landscape have once again fallen short.
State Rep. Adam Koenig, R – Erlanger, attempted to pass a measure during the Kentucky legislature’s recent session. But the efforts fell short again – there weren’t enough lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Senate to push the measure through to the governor’s desk.
During a recent interview with 10TV News, Koenig said that there were certain lawmakers that told him privately they would’ve voted for it, but they felt political pressure in their own districts to vote no given the opposition by a conservative advocacy group.
Koenig said Ohio’s entrance into sports gaming hurts his state.
“We are effectively surrounded,” he said. “Just like we are with casinos… except Tennessee, which doesn’t have a lottery or casinos. And they have sports betting - it’s really a no brainer.”
Koenig shared with 10TV News that according to an estimate from the American Gambling Association $2 billion is wagered illegally in Kentucky on sports every year.
It’s money he said that could flow into state coffers.
Despite positive news about revenue flowing into other states from this expansion, some argue that Ohio’s expansion of sports gambling needs to be closely monitored and the expectations tempered.
“It’s going to be largest expansion of gambling that Ohio has ever seen. It’s the largest expansion of sports betting that anyone has ever done. That aspect gives me pause as to what this new aspect will look like and who might be impacted by it,” said Derek Longmeier with Problem Gambling Network of Ohio.
Longmeier told 10TV News his group is not opposed to the expansion of sports betting, but he says individuals need to monitor their own habits, and there’s data to suggest there could be cause for some concern.
“We know from our 2017 survey results – of those who gamble about 1 in 10 are risk of developing a problem. When we look specifically at sports betting, that goes from 1 in 10 to 1 in 4,” he said.
Longmeier said in Michigan calls to the state’s gambling helpline tripled once sports betting became legal. Ease of access with online betting, he says, could be a factor.
“So whatever reason, sports betting has a higher propensity for problematic behavior so we want to make sure that people are aware of what that impact.”
Ohio’s bet: that the expansion into sports gaming will draw in $24 million in tax revenue each year.
Last week, the Ohio Casino Control Commission published a timeline of when applications and compliance checks are due ahead of the universal state date in January. The timeline can be viewed here.