Arguably the fiercest rivalry in all of college sports is Michigan vs. Ohio State in football. The two teams will square off on Nov. 30 for the 101st consecutive year.
Recently, Ohio State, along with other colleges and universities in the Buckeye State, put forth a position that all collegiate betting should be prohibited under legal and regulated Ohio sports betting. Lawmakers in Columbus are in the midst of extensive debate on how to create a legal market.
“The Ohio State University is opposed to collegiate sports wagering in the state of Ohio,” said university spokesman Ben Johnson, according to the Columbus-Dispatch.
It’s a heavy-handed request, considering that only a handful of states have placed restrictions on wagering on in-state collegiate teams. No state has totally banned betting on collegiate sports. Ironically, New Jersey, the emergent king of U.S. regulated sports wagering, is the most restrictive at present with a ban on wagering on in-state teams (Iowa restricts collegiate prop bets). The New Jersey law isn’t that cumbersome for the state’s industry because the Garden State lacks powerhouse collegiate programs.
Meanwhile, a few universities in states where collegiate wagering is legal have made moves to try to restrict students from wagering on school teams.
A ban on wagering on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Buckeye State would be a major blow to casinos and racinos and their respective gaming partners. It would also give the underground market a structural advantage. Furthermore, it could be a massive boon for the state of Michigan.
Michigan sports betting discussions
The Wolverine State has debated sports wagering for substantially longer than neighboring Ohio — and Michigan sports betting proponents fortunately have never had to deal with the University of Michigan advocating for a betting ban (at least not publicly). Like Ohio, Michigan has popular professional sports franchises, but it appears folks in Michigan realize what a ban on wagering on Michigan vs. Ohio State would do to a fledgling legal market.
Detroit casinos would likely be the beneficiaries of such a short-sighted policy in Ohio. Because of Ohio State’s massive student body, Buckeye fans can be found all over the state. Legal betting on the Buckeyes in Michigan would draw flocks of people, especially from the Toledo area, to Detroit to wager.
Toledo is less than an hour-long drive from Detroit. Retail sportsbooks in the Motor City would surely draw Buckeye fans. MGM Grand Detroit recently opened an impressive Las Vegas-style sports betting space that will have wagering once it’s authorized by the state.
It’s worth noting that MGM has retail gaming in Ohio and so does Penn National Gaming, owner of the Hollywood Casino Toledo. PNG is the new operator of the Greektown Casino in Detroit. Both casino operators could theoretically inform their Ohio patrons that legal wagering on the Buckeyes is close by in Michigan.
If/when Michigan legalizes sports wagering, it will include online/mobile. The governor, who has taken issue with the proposed sports betting tax rate because she thinks it’s too low, is on-board with online/mobile. There is no way Michigan won’t have online/mobile if it has sports betting. Ohioans could cross into Michigan and wager from anywhere.
To make matters even worse for Ohio, neighboring Indiana and Pennsylvania both allow online/mobile and have legal collegiate wagering.
Chances of Ohio collegiate betting ban?
If Michigan government coffers had consciousness, they’d surely be hoping for Ohio to enact an industry-stifling ban. But what are the chances?
If we go by laws in other sports betting states, the odds of the ban in Ohio are drawing very slim. Consider that Tennessee, home to no casinos, passed a sports betting law in 2019 that didn’t ban betting on in-state teams. Historically, Tennessee is much less friendly to gaming than Ohio.
Tennessee and Illinois have become black sheep in a sense for giving the professional sports leagues an “official league data” mandate for in-game wagering (though under “commercially reasonable terms”). But their black sheep-ness would pale in comparison to the Buckeye State.
In terms of politics, Ohio colleges and universities may really be after an in-state collegiate betting ban (a la New Jersey), which of course would drastically reduce the number of games that the ban would apply to.
Still, it would be a major blow to betting handle in the state. Ohio State football is immensely popular. It’s arguably as big as NFL football in the state.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine skirted taking a position on collegiate betting in his state when asked about it by the Columbus-Dispatch. DeWine does want sports betting to be regulated, a position he took in 2018 following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. He’s apparently still educating himself on the issue as the legislature holds hearings and gathers feedback from stakeholders.
At this point in time, it appears to be a long shot that Ohio would enact a ban on betting on the Buckeyes, but time will tell if it can gain traction.
As far as football goes, the Buckeyes have won 14 of the last 15 contests against their arch rivals at Michigan. But if Ohio enacts a collegiate betting ban, the state of Michigan will be the perpetual winner.