What will come quicker to Ohio: legal sports betting, or one of Ohio’s two NFL teams bringing the Super Bowl title to the Buckeye State? If you had asked Senator Kirk Schuring this question in May 2021 , he probably would have laughed. It’s likely he would have bet the house on the legalization happening first, such was his bullishness and its chances.

2017 Heisman winner and Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield may have tried to convince you otherwise.

Mayfield led the 2020 Browns to an 11-5 season. That was their first winning season since 2007 and their first playoffs showing since 2002. In addition they had their first playoff win since 1994, beating AFC North rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers 48-37 in the Wild Card game. There was no disgrace in then losing to the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional round.


SB 176 Delayed In The House

Fast forward six months to November 2021 and Sen. Schuring is still bullish on the legalization of sports betting. However, SB 176 (of which Schuring is the key sponsor and if passed would allow legal sports betting in Ohio) is still awaiting House approval.

The bill passed through the Senate in June 2021 and was hoped to get through the House the same month. That turned out to be wildly optimistic. And considering the Senate Select Committee of Gaming took 15 hearings on sports legislation before the bill was passed by the Senate, it’s hard to see where the optimism came from.


Browns And Bengals Rivalry

Meanwhile, Mayfield may not be as confident now. In sport consistency is key to success, and the Browns have not been consistent in their winning ways. But an impressive Week 9 win over their in-state and Divisional rivals Bengals means they are still in contention.

Back in May, the Bengals wouldn’t even have been part of the conversation. They had gone 4-11-1 in 2020 and hadn’t had a winning season since they won their Division in 2015. To add injury to insult their star rookie QB Joe Burrow tore every ligament known to mankind in his left knee in the Bengals Week 11 loss to the Washington Football Team.
However Joe Burrow didn’t win the 2019 Heisman by having losing seasons. Post-surgery he was back, and back with a bang.

In the early weeks of this season, the Bengals looked to be cruising. A winning season, a playoff berth and possibly a playoff win were all on the cards after Week 7. They had just convincingly beaten another AFC North rival, the Baltimore Ravens. But a shock defeat in Week 8 to the 1-5 NY Jets (a team that had only won 3 games in the previous two seasons) and the Week 9 reverse to Cleveland has raised question marks.


SB 176 and HB 29

I’m not sure if Sen. Schuring is a Browns or a Bengals fan, but he clearly is a fan of getting his bill passed through the House. He has called for a conference committee where both Senate and House members can come together to get Ohio sports betting done. This time the committee will be discussing not SB 176 but HB 29. HB 29 is a bill originally overseeing Ohio veteran ID cards. The Senate voted to add SB 176 to HB 29 in order to get sports betting across the line.

The Senate’s proposal still requires acceptance by the House hence the need for the committee meeting. The House will review the Senate’s proposals which honestly seem somewhat complicated compared to other states.

It proposes three types of licenses. Type A covering online mobile license, Type B covering retail sports books and Type C covering sports betting kiosks in bars and restaurants with Class D Liquor licenses.

Unless the Browns or Bengals pull off a major upset in February, it looks like legal sports betting will be coming to Ohio before the Vince Lombardi Trophy does.