Ohio sports betting, college athlete NIL in limbo after transgender athlete amendment

Jessie Balmert
Cincinnati Enquirer
Ohio State head football coach Ryan Day, left, listens as Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, right, testifies on name, image and likeness bill, at the Ohio Statehouse on Tuesday, June 22, 2021.

COLUMBUS – Lawmakers in the Ohio Senate, rushing to meet deadlines, added language to legalize sports betting and allow student-athletes to benefit from their own name, image and likeness into an unrelated bill Thursday night. 

But House Speaker Bob Cupp says he won't pass the changes before lawmakers break for a couple of months. 

“The revised version that was sent over may fit the bill. We just don’t know,” said Cupp, R-Lima, adding that House lawmakers haven't had a hearing on sports betting.

The Senate's late-night changes Thursday came after House Republicans amended Senate Bill 187 – Sen. Niraj Antani's original bill to allow students to profit off their name, image and likeness – to ban transgender athletes from competing in girls and women's sports. 

That amendment jettisoned Democratic support for the previously bipartisan bill, making it impossible to reach the votes needed for NIL to take effect immediately. Antani needed a new vehicle for his bill.

More:Ohio House passes bill to ban transgender athletes from participating in girls and women’s sports

Enter House Bill 29, a bill to create veteran identification cards. Antani amended the bill to include his NIL language, which would not take effect until 90 days after the bill is signed. 

"This is a recruiting issue. Ohio is a huge sports state," said Antani, R-Miamisburg. "We should not let personal motivations and personal agendas rob them of this right."

But lawmakers in the Ohio Senate didn't stop there. After House Speaker Bob Cupp indicated he couldn't pass Senate Bill 176 to legalize sports gambling by June 30, the Ohio Senate added some of that language to House Bill 29, too. 

"We think we have an amendment that will finally get gaming accepted and be a part of the Ohio Revised Code. It's long overdue," said Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township. 

Under the proposed changes:

  • Ohio would offer up to 25 mobile licenses and up to 40 brick-and-mortar store licenses for sports gaming.  
  • Counties with 800,000 or more residents would be eligible for five brick-and-mortar licenses; those with 400,000 to 800,000 residents would be eligible for three and those with at least 100,000 residents would be eligible for one.
  • Veterans and fraternal organizations could have seven electronic bingo or eBingo machines. Organizations established before July 1 would eligible for eBingo licenses.
  • Bars with certain liquor licenses could apply for licenses to offer spreads and over/under bets on two kiosks. Application fees would be $2,000 rather than $6,000. 
  • The 10% tax on sports gaming would still be split 98% for public and private K12 education and 2% for problem gaming services. However, half of the school money would be designated for extracurricular sports and activities.
  • Ohio would allow official league data to be part of proposition betting.

2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed states to set up their own rules on sports gambling but Ohio has fallen behind many of its neighbors in doing so. 

The newly ballooned House Bill 29 passed the Ohio Senate, 31-0, on Thursday. But the House won't take up those changes immediately, Cupp said.

Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.