Ohio lawmakers are preparing to begin a series of discussions on the state’s current gambling market and what forms of new gambling expansion are possible, including online casinos and an online lottery. The Ohio Sports Gaming Study Committee will meet four times over the next two months to discuss and give recommendations regarding topics like iGaming.
There will be two meetings in February and another two in March, each focusing on a different topic. Online casinos will be the first order of business.
- Feb. 20: iGaming
- Feb 22: iLottery
- March 19: Racinos and charitable gambling
- March 20: Sports betting and Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS)
Last year, Ohio lawmakers voted to create the Study Commission by expanding the duties and membership of the Joint Committee on Sports Gaming. The original committee was created after Ohio legalized sports betting.
With the changes, the Study Commission’s responsibilities include examining the current status and making recommendations to the General Assembly regarding the Ohio lottery, sports betting, casino gaming, and horse racing. With the increase in responsibilities, the commission membership increased from six to 11 members:
- Three members of the House appointed by the Speaker
- One member of the House appointed by the House Minority Leader
- Three members of the Senate appointed by the Senate President
- One member of the Senate appointed by the Senate Minority Leader
- The chairperson of the State Lottery Commission or the chairperson’s designee
- The chairperson of the OCCC or the chairperson’s designee
- The chairperson of the State Racing Commission or the chairperson’s designee
Rep. Jay Edwards and Sen. Nathan Manning will serve as co-chairs of the committee.
Edwards recently told PlayUSA—another site in the Catena Media network—that he believes iGaming will be a big topic.
No iGaming Bill Expected This Year
While iGaming is expected to be a center of discussion, Ohio is not among the states actively considering an online casino bill in 2024. Edwards said he doesn’t expect to file a bill in the current legislative session. Instead, the committee’s goal is to start the conversation and educate members. That will help lawmakers prepare if or when a legislation proposal does come.
It’s rare for states to pass online casino legislation on the first try in any event. Typically, the first version of a bill to appear in a legislature serves the same purpose as this committee, that is, to get a conversation going.
Edwards added that Ohio is doing well financially at the moment, so there is no urgent need for the revenue online casinos could bring. However, it’s important to begin the process now.
That means that 2025 might be a better time to file an iGaming bill. Ohio works on a two-year budget cycle, and 2025 will be the next budget year. One way or another, Edwards believes that it’s a matter of “when” and not “if” for online casinos in Ohio.
Could We See iLottery in OH?
After iGaming, the Study Committee will look into another possible gambling expansion, an online lottery. As billion-dollar jackpots have become more common, many states have implemented an online option to generate additional revenue. Currently, eight states have a full-featured online lottery, while seven others sell draw tickets online.
Those numbers have been increasing rapidly, as lawmakers have seemingly found it easier to muster support for online lotteries than online casinos. Some states, like Rhode Island, have managed to do it with an update to their regulatory rules without even needing to pass a bill.
Ohio ranks among the top states in terms of lottery revenue. In 2023, the Ohio Lottery generated over $4.4 billion in ticket sales and over $1.3 billion in Video Lottery Terminal revenue. While the state lottery does not offer an online option, Ohioans can place lottery ticket orders online via lottery courier apps like Jackpocket. But an iLottery could boost sales further, especially among younger players.
Some states, like New Jersey, have faced pushback from small business owners, fearing that a mobile option will reduce retail sales and traffic to their stores. However, data from Ohio’s neighbors, Michigan and Pennsylvania, suggests otherwise.
Other Topics Include DFS and Sports Betting
The Study Committee will also look into possible changes in sports betting rules. The Buckeye State recently celebrated its first year of legal sports betting. Since launch, the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) has implemented several changes, including a hike in the tax rate for operators. The OCCC also kept busy updating its rules to protect bettors and has become known as one of the more aggressive regulators in the US when it comes to issuing fines.
Another item that will be discussed during the March 20 meeting is DFS. One topic the Study Committee will likely look into is the controversy around props-style or pick’em bets. These bets have become a hot topic in multiple states, with some regulators viewing them as illegal sports betting.
States like West Virginia, Maryland, and Michigan have banned props-style DFS, while others, including Ohio, are still investigating. The March 20 meeting could help OCCC and lawmakers to decide on the matter.