Ohio should avoid W.Va.’s mistakes
Ohio officials are being urged by some to jump on the sports betting bandwagon. Actually, though, there are multiple routes to permitting wagers on athletic events, not just one.
In other words, there are several bandwagons. Hopping on the wrong one would be a mistake.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting in most states. That opened the floodgates to state-sanctioned wagering — a whole new type of gambling, even in states such as Ohio where the practice already is legal in many forms.
Allowing bets to be placed on sports could bring a substantial chunk of money to the state and, perhaps, to localities. It also would shore up gambling interests involved in table games and electronic slot machines.
If Buckeye State legislators go down that road, they have multiple models they could emulate. Several states either have sports betting laws on the books or are expected to enact them within a few months.
Finding a template that would not serve Ohioans well is easy.
Next door in West Virginia, multiple errors were made in legalizing sports betting.
One is the state’s take from sports books operated by the private sector. West Virginia would get a measly 10 percent, among the lowest rates in the country. It is less than one-third the rake-off envisioned in existing Pennsylvania law.
A second error in the Mountain State was restricting sports betting to the state’s five casinos. Four are located at dog- or horse-racing tracks. The fifth is the luxury Greenbrier resort, owned by the family of Gov. Jim Justice.
If Ohio proceeds with sports betting, it should permit far more outlets to offer it. Obviously, that would result in more revenue for state government.
Finally, West Virginia ignored the arguments of a few professional sports leagues that, in exchange for a modest integrity fee (1 percent), they could provide reliable validation of events on which bets are placed. The leagues also would use the money to police athletes, keeping corruption to a minimum.
Paying the integrity fee and working with the leagues would make sports betting in Ohio more appealing to gamblers.
West Virginia officials have shown no interest in amending their law. If they take up sports betting, Ohio legislators should not make the same mistakes.