Closings and delays

Experts trying to work out challenges with legalized sports betting

CLEVELAND, Ohio - A recent Supreme Court ruling clears the way for states across the country, including Ohio, to decide if they want to legalize sports betting.

As of right now, the only thing Ohio lawmakers know for certain is that it is happening here anyway.

"Does anybody really believe no one bet on the Superbowl last year? Or the NCAA tournament? It happens all the time so we need to get it under control and if we are serious about a ban we need to be serious and enforce it," said Ohio Senator Bill Coley, who is also the President of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States.

Among the reasons for allowing legalized sports betting is that gamblers are already placing sports bets with illegal online betting sites and legally in Las Vegas, from which the state of Ohio is getting no revenue but dealing with the consequences.

"About 24-percent of those that were participating in sports gambling have a problem with it," said Derek Longmeier, of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio.

And although sports betting is illegal in Ohio, Coley says there has been no aggressive enforcement of the ban.

But Keith Whyte of the National Council on Problem Gambling says states should not go into the business of sports betting just to try to compete with illegal online bookmakers or neighboring states.

"As states look at this, they want to out-compete their neighbor but they are doing it by lowering regulation, lowering costs, lowering price and at some point you can't compete with the illegal offshore guys because they have no regulation.," said Whyte.

Among the questions lawmakers need to answer: where sports bets will be placed?  Will they only be permitted at casinos, racinos and lottery outlets or will the state allow companies to take bets online?

If sports betting is permitted here, will it be limited to only professional sports or will amateur sports be included?

And will the state be able to appropriately address the consequences?

If lawmakers do not permit legal sports betting in Ohio then Coley believes they need to provide the resources to enforce the ban. If they do legalize betting, who will enforce the regulations?

"My newest law enforcement agency in the state is my casino control commission. Let's empower them. This is right in their wheelhouse. Let's empower them to enforce the ban on gaming state-wide lets give them the ability to go in there investigate that then work with local officials to prosecute and enforce that ban. If we are serious, that's what we should be doing," said Coley.

The state senator also says if lawmakers do not get it right, it will only result in more people going to the online betting sites or drive gamblers to place bets with other states that are not as carefully regulated.

Representatives of states from across the country are in Cleveland discussing the merits and the consequences of legalizing sports betting.

Coley believes Ohio legislators will have a decision within the next six months to a year.