Browns Legend Bernie Kosar Removed From Radio Job Over Ohio Sports Bet 

Written By Mike Breen on January 9, 2023
Bernie Kosar Cleveland Browns

Legendary Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar was removed from the Browns’ pregame radio coverage last week for violating the NFL’s gambling policy.

Kosar announced the news on his Twitter account just prior to the Browns final game of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 8. Sports betting in Ohio became legal on Jan. 1.

“Yet once again I was informed by the Browns that my services are no longer desired or needed,” Kosar tweeted. “I will not be doing (today’s) radio program. I am shocked & disappointed. Brown & Orange is my life.”

Kosar was a regular paid guest on the “Cleveland Browns Daily” and “Cleveland Browns Kickoff Show” programs, which are a part of the  Cleveland Browns Radio Network. Because he was paid for his appearances and the radio network is owned and operated by the Browns, Kosar was considered NFL personnel, giving the NFL the right to punish him for violating policy.

Kosar placed first bet in Ohio using Tipico Sportsbook

It appears that Kosar’s relationship with Tipico Sportsbook Ohio, one of 16 sportsbook apps approved to launch in Ohio on Jan. 1 as sports betting went live across the state, is what led to the NFL’s punishment.

Kosar did not try to hide that he bet on an NFL game. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was a big part of his social media presence for several days, and there were press releases sent out about it.

Kosar did a promotion with Tipico at the exact moment sports betting was legal in Ohio. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, Kosar placed the first bet in Ohio on Tipico Sportsbook, wagering $19,000 (a reference to Kosar’s jersey number 19) through the Tipico app on the Browns beating the Steelers in the Jan. 8 regular season finale.

Tipico is the presenting sponsor of Cleveland-based sports network BIGPLAY, which produces a slate of live and streaming sports programming, including “The Bernie Kosar Show With Hanford Dixon.”

Kosar, BIGPLAY and Tipico all heavily promoted Kosar’s Jan. 1 sports bet. Tipico ran a “Bernie Kosar Boost” promo offer tied to Kosar’s wager ahead of the Browns/Steelers matchup — users who bet on the Browns to beat the Steelers got a +140 odds boost. If the Browns lost (which they did), users got a $19 bet credited back to their account.

On the Jan. 2 episode of “The Bernie Kosar Show With Hanford Dixon,” Kosar talked at length about placing the Jan. 1 bet with Tipico.

During the program, Kosar’s colleagues proclaimed his Tipico wager the first overall legal sports bet in Ohio, saying a 12 a.m. timestamp on his betting slip put him ahead of Pete Rose, whose 12:01 a.m. bet at the retail sportsbook at Cincinnati’s Hard Rock Casino was declared by Hard Rock to be the first legal Ohio sports bet.

Tipico bet broke NFL rules regarding personnel gambling

If the Browns had won the Jan. 8 game, Kosar said he would donate his winnings to charity. The Browns ended up losing to the Steelers 28-14.

“We’re putting our money where our mouth is on the loving of our football team,” Kosar said of the wager during show’s Jan. 2 episode. “We need to win it to keep supporting our charities and foundation.”

Regardless of where the winnings went, the Tipico bet was against NFL policy, according to a Jan. 8 statement issued by the Browns regarding Kosar’s removal from the pregame radio broadcast:

“Earlier this week we notified Bernie, that per league policy, we were required to remove him from our pregame radio coverage for the season finale after he violated the NFL gambling policy by placing a bet on an NFL game. We understand what Bernie means to this community and our history but as team contracted personnel hired to provide content on our media platforms, his bet was a violation of NFL rules and we must adhere to all NFL policy.”

The NFL rules state that NFL personnel are forbidden from betting on any NFL game. The rule affecting Kosar states:

All NFL Personnel are prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating any bet, whether directly or indirectly through a third-party, on any NFL game, practice or other event. This includes betting on game outcome, statistics, score, performance of any individual participant, or any other kind of “proposition bet” on which wagering is offered

Tipico using “hyperlocal” approach to appeal to Ohio bettors

Tipico Sportsbook has been using what it has called a “hyperlocal” strategy to appeal to bettors in Ohio.

Part of that strategy includes Tipico’s partnership with BIGPLAY. Besides sponsoring programming, Tipico is also sponsoring BIGPLAY’S VIP Player Lounge and Studio at Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport, which Tipico describes as “a welcome spot for high-profile sports personalities and athletes” that they hope will eventually host fan meet and greets.

In the lead-up to Ohio’s Jan. 1 statewide sports betting launch, Tipico announced Ohio-specific promotions and partnerships.

The sportsbook’s pre-launch Tipico ’96 Welcome Offer — named for the Columbus Crew inaugural MLS season — gave new Ohio users a deposit match and a $96 Columbus Crew merch voucher. Tipico is the Crew’s official sports betting partner.

In December, Tipico announced a partnership with heavyweight live music events producer AEG Presents, making Tipico the exclusive sportsbook sponsor of several AEG music venues in Ohio, including Cleveland’s Agora Theatre and Columbus venues like Newport Music Hall and KEMBA Live! Tipico will be presenting sponsor of 32 yearly concerts at the venues, part of the Best Bet Concert Series.

Tipico is also the exclusive sports betting and iGaming provider for newspaper publishing juggernaut Gannett, which operates 21 newspapers across Ohio.

21+ and present in OH. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER

Photo by AP / Tony Dejak
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Mike Breen

Mike Breen covers Ohio’s budding sports betting industry for PlayOhio, focusing on online sportsbooks and the state’s responsible gambling initiatives. He has over two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture in Ohio.

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