(Ohio Capital Journal) — Hopeful Democratic Governor John Cranley is calling on state lawmakers to abandon a sports betting measure already approved by the Senate, and instead introduce sports betting under the current authority of the Ohio Lottery Commission . Cranley argues that this approach would avoid a lengthy lawsuit and make more money available for public schools.
The mayor of Cincinnati has promised, if elected governor, he will appoint members of the Lottery Commission who would use their position to offer sports betting in Ohio. Under SB 176, passed by the Senate in June, the state Casino Control Commission would oversee sports betting instead of the Lottery Commission.
The debate over which committee should oversee sports gambling has long been a sticking point for lawmakers trying to legalize gambling. The lottery is constitutionally required to send the proceeds exclusively to public education, while SB 176 would split the proceeds of the 10% tax on gambling tickets between public and non-public schools.
“The constitution says if you do it through the Lottery Commission, every dollar should go to public education,” Cranley said. “This bill is vague about that and says we’re essentially going to figure out what we’re going to do with the money later. We’ll do it publicly, privately, we’ll do vouchers, all kinds of things that could undermine public education.”
Earlier this year, House lawmakers rejected a Senate offer to tie the gambling provisions to an unrelated veterans’ ID card bill. But now home leaders are suggesting they may have reached a compromise.
Cranley argued that if they use SB 176 as a starting point, they are likely going to go to court.
“This thing is unconstitutional in two ways,” Cranley said. “First, the Casino Control Commission does not have the power to make sports betting under the Constitution, and you cannot pass a law that violates the Ohio Constitution. Only the Lottery Commission has the power under the Constitution to extend gambling beyond the four casinos. And under the constitution, gambling proceeds should go to public education unless they’re for the four casinos.”
To back up his claims about the existing authority of the Lottery Commission, Cranley points to a 2019 Legislative Service Commission report prepared for former Rep. Dave Greenspan, who determined that the Lottery Commission likely has the authority to proceed.
“Since the Lottery Act grants broad powers to the State Lottery Commission to conduct lotteries and the lotteries are exempt from the Gambling Act, it appears that the Commission may be able to establish and operate a sports betting lottery under Ohio law. the report said. .
But while legislative analysts believe the Lottery Commission can act, they don’t take the position that the Lottery Commission alone can act. In the analysis for SB 176, they write that the Ohio Supreme Court has yet to weigh in, and the question will come down to the definition of “lottery,” which remains vague in the state constitution.
If the courts interpret a betting order as a lottery, “that seems to prohibit any sports game outside the context of the state lottery or casinos,” the analysis said.
On the other hand, if the courts took a narrower view and defined a lottery as a specific form of gambling, legislators would probably have room to enact sports betting as they saw fit. Ohio’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has already supported that reading of the constitution.
Cranley is currently competing for Ohio’s Democratic nomination for governor in 2022 against Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who also criticized current sports betting proposals.
“Nan believes that if we’re going to legalize sports betting, we need to do it in a way that benefits Ohio’s communities and businesses, not out-of-state businesses,” Whaley spokesman Courtney Rice said in a statement. “The people of Ohio are tired of the sweetheart deals that are made in backrooms. Our state government is too corrupt to trust that much money without a much more transparent process than we’ve seen so far.”