Ohio lawmakers set to take on sports betting

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Opponents of sports betting in Ohio are teeing off for what could be a messy process this fall.

Lawmakers plan to take up the issue when they return from summer break.

“I’m very optimistic that we will have legalized sports betting very soon in Ohio,” said Ohio Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg).

Senate Bill 176 already passed the Ohio Senate and is now in the hands of the House. Not everyone is on board with the current bill, though.

“What makes it a form of financial fraud is that citizens are conned into thinking they can win money on games that are designed to get them fleeced,” said Les Bernal, executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling.

This week, the non-profit Stop Predatory Gambling and Ohio’s NAACP Chapter held a news conference to urge lawmakers to rethink the bill. They are concerned about what legalized sports betting could do to Ohio’s poorest communities.

“Let’s point it out, people of color are preyed upon in these markets and this will continue if gambling is allowed to go on as the Senate has proposed it,” said Tom Roberts, president of the Ohio Conference of the NAACP.

Antani, one of the bill’s sponsors, said sports betting is already happening in Ohio.

“It’s important to understand that people are doing sports betting right now in Ohio, it’s done illegal,” he said. “So, this is going to bring it into the sunshine. We’re going to be able to regulate it, make sure it’s done in a safe manner.”

Lawmakers don’t return to the Statehouse for another few weeks, but Antani believes Ohio’s first bet could be placed as early as next spring.