12 Takes For Christmas On The Ohio Sports Betting Scene

Written By Matt Schoch on December 13, 2022 - Last Updated on July 21, 2023
Ohio Sports Betting

We can’t let a milestone go by without a gimmick here at PlayOhio.

In September, I had 100 lingering questions about the upcoming Ohio sports betting market with 100 days until launch.

Some of those have been answered, but some still linger. But after a year of closely following the pre-launch developments and continuing to study the industry at large, I have thoughts on how things have gone, are going and will go in Ohio.

I’ll deliver a new take on Ohio sports betting each day until Christmas Eve. So check back in between online shopping searches in the next couple of weeks. (And did you hear about our holiday book gift guide for Ohio sports bettors?)

Apologies for stiffing you on the maids-a-milking and golden rings. You’ll have to hit a parlay after Jan. 1 to get those yourself.

12. Maybe we don’t need kiosks

I keep thinking about who the sports betting kiosks are for.

It’s one thing if online sports betting wasn’t launching the same day, and that there was some runway for folks to get acclimated to betting on kiosks. But with access on your phone, I don’t get it. This seems like too much work and preparation for something that won’t have a lucrative future.

We project $80 million of kiosk bets in year one, and that might be generous, as the rollout for activation of many of the kiosks could be delayed. Plus, the number might drop over the years after the fascination of making your first couple kiosk bets wears out.

And by the way, putting betting options in Kroger isn’t exactly toning down the in-your-face messaging that sports betting detractors are circling the wagons on.

Besides, if you are a serious enough sports fan to make bets, you’ll just download an app.

Maybe boomers flummoxed by the phone could use a kiosk instead, but that’s another reason to be skeptical about the long-term impact on the market.

Maybe I’ll be proven wrong here, but I’m just not seeing the point.

11. Ohio might catch Cavaliers betting fever

The unfortunate launch timeline that misses most of football season in pigskin-obsessed Ohio, along with an exciting young NBA squad might mean Cleveland Cavaliers betting will be on fire.

Donovan Mitchell has been the perfect addition to young potential stars like Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, giving s superstar shot in the arm in a conference that could be won … this year.

Caesars Sportsbook seems to have the upper hand with all things Cavaliers, giving away some tickets with pre-launch sign-up entries, in addition to a sportsbook at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. Bettors should look for in-app freebies built around some of the first Cavaliers games after launch, including the Jan. 2 home game against the Chicago Bulls and Jan. 4 against Phoenix (when the football and holiday weekends have ended).

But no matter what, expect some outsized action on the Cavaliers in 2023 with sportsbooks grimacing along with each Cleveland win.

10. Betfred, Bet365 could make big US pushes in Ohio

Betfred Sportsbook is planning a party on Jan. 1, and Bet365 Sportsbook is focused big on Ohio as two United Kingdom giants could make their mark.

The UK name-brand recognition does not travel unfortunately across the pond, so product has to.

Betfred and Bet365 are tried and true brands that could step up as second-tier market choices should some consolidation occur.

And maybe with some spending in Ohio, a new wave of US popularity could start in 2023.

9. Barstool Sportsbook will be going through some changes soon

Things are reaching a weird crossroads for Barstool Sportsbook.

If you’ve noticed in Ohio, and even worse in Massachusetts, things appear to be going from bad to worse for the book’s perception in the industry.

The days of reckoning may be near for Dave Portnoy & Co. for their tongue-in-cheek approach to a business that should be by the book.

The harmful messaging, which isn’t even moving the needle for the business, will need to be adjusted for Barstool to receive licenses going forward.

No, Penn Entertainment will not divorce from the brand; they’re in too deep. And while single digits in market share is not the ROI anyone was hoping for in the deal, it’s better than leaving the Stoolies behind from here on out and having … no customer base.

Regrets are another matter, but Penn has to draw dead om its sunk cost. The least the boys from Barstool can do —  if they can’t deliver results worthy of occasional headaches — is behave.

8. More in-app free money will be available Jan. 1

This is less of a take and more of a tip for Ohio sports bettors.

Not only are the sports betting apps offering free cash in pre-launch signup bonuses, but there will also be even more free money.

In the past, FanDuel Sports Betting has done promos in newly launched states where each bettor on the local team’s side moves the point spread a point until it becomes a number that’s a guaranteed winner. DraftKings Sportsbook has also done similar “no-brainer” bets.

These might only be available for the first day or two of the online sports betting market, which is all the more reason to get signed up before Jan. 1.

7. Keep an eye on Dan Gilbert

Sorry to be vague here, as this is more of a half-baked take.

Maybe this is my Detroit native bias showing, but the company formerly owned by Michigan billionaire Dan Gilbert making its first move in the online gambling world is interesting to me.

JACK Entertainment was part of Gilbert’s portfolio of companies until he recently sold it. JACK Cleveland Casino will launch sports betting through the BetJACK platform.

Gilbert used to own the former Greektown Casino in Detroit, but the sale to Penn National Gaming ignited rumors that Gilbert might be interested in buying a Detroit sports team.

The Cleveland Cavaliers owner also owns most of downtown Detroit. I’ll be curious to see if Gilbert’s former company eyes possible expansion of the BetJACK app into other states, notably Michigan, as a possibility down the road.

6. More Ohioans will bet Browns games than Bengals

On this second-to-last Sunday without legal sports betting in Ohio, here’s an NFL take: More Ohio bets will come for Cleveland Browns games than those for the Cincinnati Bengals. This despite the Bengals being the defending AFC champions and a much better team and franchise than sadsack Cleveland.

That’s not just a hunch either, it’s supported by data. We surveyed Ohio sports bettors in the summer, and 53.9% of Ohio bettors were more excited about betting on Browns games than Bengals games.

Now, there are some reasons why this makes sense:

  • While the Cleveland and Cincinnati metro areas are similarly sized, the Cleveland area is entirely in Ohio. Much of the Cincinnati metro area is in Kentucky and Indiana. Those fans weren’t part of the survey and won’t be able to legally bet in Ohio, unless they cross the border.
  • There are probably a good amount of Bengals fans who already head over to Indiana to make online bets.
  • Remember, we didn’t ask which teams they plan to bet on. After decades of futility, maybe Browns fans are also excited to bet against their team. Less pessimism probably exists with Bengals fans these days.

5. Sportsbooks are OK skipping the Ohio State game on NYE

There had been some rumblings about stakeholders pushing for a bit of a faster start for the Ohio market because of the big Buckeyes game on Saturday night.

Ohio State plays Georgia in the College Football Playoff on New Year’s Eve. Shortly after the Peach Bowl is over in Atlanta, Ohio residents and visitors can bet on sports legally.

Why not push it up to a few hours before kickoff, the thought process goes?

It’s not happening, the Ohio Casino Control Commission declared this week, sticking with the midnight Jan. 1 launch.

I have a feeling sportsbooks are OK with that decision. Look, all of the Ohio money would be betting on Ohio State football to win, perhaps making the Buckeyes a liability for the sportsbooks.

Plus, a spread of 6.5 points is a nice amount to receive for a talented side like OSU, even against powerful Georgia.

Sportsbooks would be happier with a more balanced infusion of betting, perhaps in a championship game rematch against Michigan, a state that would provide its own biased lopsided handle on the other side.

4. Not all brands who enter will make it to 2024

Not to be morbid here, but more consolidation is coming.

The sports betting industry is dominated by the titans of the industry, and many brands have their eyes on Ohio.

Many of them better do it responsibly (and with low revenue expectations), because while Ohio has a lot of potential sports bettors, there are not that many. Just in 2021, we’ve seen Fubo, MaximBet and TwinSpires close up online sports betting shops.

Newcomers better have some brand loyalty, a quality product or something else to offer customers.

Because after the FanDuels, DraftKings and BetMGMs of the world, there won’t be a lot of oxygen left for everyone else.

3. FanDuel, DraftKings won’t dominate as much in Ohio

FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings are like the Tom Brady and Peyton Manning rivalry a decade ago. The market consists of the daily fantasy sports OGs — and then everyone else.

And that pair will be No. 1 and No. 2 in Ohio, don’t get me wrong. And with a great sign-up deal and some name recognition runway, DraftKings might even make the 1-2 race closer with industry leader FanDuel than other states.

But this won’t be Maryland, where the titans combined for more than 85% of the market in the first nine days of online betting.

The early numbers will be inflated for FanDuel and DraftKings in Ohio, too, but I would expect a better result from BetMGM and Barstool in Ohio, while Caesars (for their sake) hopefully can’t be worse than its 1.9% Maryland market share.

BetJACK and Hard Rock will eventually have brand loyalty from retail casinos in the state’s two largest cities, upstart Betr has the Jake Paul card, Bet365 has the product and Fanatics has the … bravado (?) to possibly be market disruptors down the road.

Expect a little bit more of a crowded field for FanDuel and DraftKings to navigate in Ohio… at least at first (see: Friday’s No. 4 take).

2. Ohio really needs to be a leader in responsible gambling

Several industry folks have touted that Ohio’s responsible gambling apparatus is the nation’s best.

Well, it needs to be.

Ohio’s launch is at a crossroads for the online gambling industry. Some sharks are circling, including a recent scathing New York Times report on the sports betting rollout.

All hands must be on deck to respond coherently to the new challenge of in-home regulated gambling. State government, non-profits and private operators must effectively manage the problem, while communicating resources and mitigation strategies to the public all along the way.

States that already have sports betting have each found some successes, but more can always be done.

Ohio needs to demonstrate the model and show how it’s done, especially as many states begin to look at online casinos as another potential source of revenue.

1. Ohio should ban betting on voted awards such as MVP

I’m starting off hot here on the first day of Christmas.

The arguments about legalized sports betting potentially damaging the integrity of sports are misinformed. The fact is that more regulated betting offers better odds of unravelling point-shaving plots, such as it did for Arizona State in 1994.

But with awards such as league MVP, which in the four major U.S. sports is determined by journalists’ votes, there are too many variables for this to be sustainable.

It’s not just that one writer could be the difference in a close race. Semi-powerful media members could also sway public voting with a campaign throughout the season. Outside of scandal, loser bettors will be potentially even nastier on social media toward voters who cost them money than players who blow a game.

Sure, voters aren’t allowed to bet on the awards they vote on. Still, protections from proxies are flimsy there, especially given that journalists are much lower paid than players who could be placing a lucrative career in jeopardy for a fixed game.

Perhaps I know too many journalists to know this is a potential house of cards.

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt Schoch has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. Schoch has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He’s also the former host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates, “Ypsi’s Emoni.”

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