Ohio Senate Set to Approve Legalized Sports Betting

AP John Locher
AP Photo/John Locher

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Sports betting would be legalized in Ohio and college athletes could for the first time earn money based on the use of their names, images and likenesses, under a pair of pair-related bills up for a Wednesday vote in the state Senate.

The sports betting bill would allow 53 licenses to be issued for taking wagers on professional and college sports. That’s an increase from 40 licenses in the original version of the bill.

Twenty-five of those licenses would be available to Ohio’s casinos and horse racing tracks called racinos, which could then partner with outside companies to provide sports betting online or mobile apps.

Another 33 licenses would be for brick-and-mortar locations that could include casinos, racinos, sports bars or betting shops where people can watch and wager on games.

“Our coalition is grateful for the care in crafting a bill providing opportunities for fair market access to Ohio’s pro sports organizations, which produces the games that make sports betting possible,” the Ohio Professional Sports Coalition said in a statement.

The bill also allows betting on Ohio university football and basketball games, which the Inter-University Council of Ohio opposes. Council CEO Bruce Johnson says legalized sports betting will require universities to monitor athletes to ensure they are not involved in point shaving and students are not dealing inside information to bettors.

The bill also allows for betting kiosks in bars and nightclubs that serve hard liquor. Betting will be limited to point spreads, total points scored in a game and money lines, which is an odds-based bet on which team will win. It also imposes a $200 a day betting limit.

In addition, the legislation would permit electronic bingo at veteran’s and fraternal organizations overseen by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and sports pool betting run by the Ohio Lottery Commission.

Under the college athlete compensation bill, universities or college athletic conferences would be prevented from punishing athletes if they are compensated based on their sports performance.

Such compensation could involve anything from a book-signing at a bookstore to a deal with a local restaurant. Exceptions include sponsorships for marijuana, alcohol, tobacco and casinos, which are not permitted under the bill, according to bill sponsor Sen. Niraj Antani, a Dayton-area Republican.

Athletes would have to notify universities 15 days ahead of signing endorsement contracts.

Since 2019, at least 16 states — including Arizona, Nebraska, and Michigan — have approved legislation allowing college athletes to make money through advertisements, sponsorship deals and other types of promotions based on their athletic success.

Five of those bills — approved by Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico — become law July 1.

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