Ohio is the latest state to legalize sports betting and to create a framework for its regulation. Governor Mike DeWine signed his name at the bottom of House Bill 29, setting in motion the process. The bill includes provisions for betting on professional, college, and esports and for creating the relevant infrastructure to license and regulate the companies that take those bets.
Most importantly from a poker player’s perspective, the bill has allowances for online and app-based betting. There is nothing in the bill about online poker or any forms of online gambling other than sports betting. However, legal and regulated online sports betting tends to be step one on the journey to legal and regulated online poker.
At least this has been the prevailing pattern so far.
The online licenses (designated “Type A”) will be for five years initially. There are a few conditions to applying for one of these licenses.
Licensees will have to pay up to $2.5 million for the license. They must also already be operating in Ohio and will only be allowed one online skin, permission for this skin will cost $3 million cost.
Casinos, racinos, and sports teams that can demonstrate an economic benefit to the state will be allowed to apply for a single additional skin for an extra $10 million.
There will also be 40 Type B licenses which will provide permission to run brick and mortar bookies. And 20 Type C licenses which will allow bars and restaurants to have small sports gaming kiosks in their properties.
The state has not decided how the proceeds from these licenses and the 10% tax on betting will be spent. Though at least one senator is pushing to earmark the monies for K-12 education.
There are eleven racinos, four casinos, and eight pro sports teams in Ohio. Plus, both the PGA and NASCAR have events in the state. The expectation is that all of these organizations will be chucking their hats in the ring for one or more of the available licenses.
If you live in Ohio, you may not want to throw out your black market bookie-cum-loanshark just yet. The deadline for getting the infrastructure for sports betting up and running is January 1, 2023. The wheels of government turn slowly, so don’t expect the first bets to go down much before the deadline hits.
“We want to get this up and running as soon as possible,” said Republican Senator Kirk Schuring. “But we’re building a whole new industry. We’re hoping it can be done sooner than 2023.”
Poker players who are discouraged by the year-long wait for not-even-poker, should be reminded that the Ohio legislature doesn’t have to wait for sports betting to hit the market before drafting something similar to House Bill 29 for online poker.
With the seal broken on online gambling, the chances are good that Ohio’s house of representatives will be betting on online poker soon too.