COLUMBUS — The Ohio Senate Finance Committee held its sixth hearing this week on legislation that would legalize gambling on professional and collegiate sports, but did not vote on whether to advance the proposal.
House Bill 194 would allow sports betting in casinos, racinos and fraternal and veterans’ homes for anyone 21 years old or older. It would not allow sports betting in other venues that currently work with the lottery, such as bowling alleys, convenience stores or bars.
Scot McClintic, who spoke on behalf of Penn National Gaming, testified that he supported the legislation. Penn National Gaming runs casinos and racinos in Ohio and other parts of the country.
McClintic said that the Legislature should not expand the facilities in which sports gambling would be legal to anything outside of HB194. Casinos and racinos, he said, provide a secure and safe environment for sports gambling, while non-gaming operators cannot manage risks effectively. He said gaming facilities spend millions of dollars annually on surveillance equipment and operators to ensure the safety of transactions.
In earlier committee hearings, representatives from other industries had sought such an expansion in the bill.
Bruce Johnson, speaking on behalf of the Inter-University Council, spoke against the inclusion of collegiate sports in the legislation.
Johnson argued that college athletes are amateurs, not professionals, and the legislation would provide the opportunity for students to take money or bribes. If sports gambling was legal for college sports, he said sports programs would have to expand training programs about bribery for athletes and staff.
“Unfortunately, it’s human nature,” Johnson said.
A few members of the committee challenged his claim that it would affect the integrity of the sport because many people already engage in illegal betting.
Both the House and the Senate are considering bills that would legalize sports gambling. Although there is significant support for sports legalization, much of the debate surrounds whether it should be regulated by the Lottery Commission (per the House Bill) or the Casino Control Commission (per the Senate bill).
Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and Ohio for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.