Online sportsbooks will be the most popular way to place bets in Ohio once the Ohio sports betting market launches on Jan. 1. And the couple dozen sportsbook apps on their way to Ohio will be available for out-of-state users — but they’ll have to physically be within the state’s borders in order to place their bets.
So, what’s it like to sign up for a sportsbook, drive across the border and place a bet in another state?
A recent trek across the Indiana border demonstrates the steps it takes to sign up for a sportsbook and just how precise geolocation services can be.
Signing up is fast, so do it ahead of time
Most sportsbooks allow users to sign up either through the sportsbook app or on a desktop. Either way, a username and password will get you in and out of both easily.
The sportsbook will ask for some personal information, including your date of birth, home address and last four digits of your social security number.
The vast majority of online sportsbooks offer a sign-up bonus, and the sportsbooks coming to Ohio are already releasing pre-launch bonuses with free bets and other offers. Many can be combined with other bonuses you’ll find once you’re signed in to the apps.
Geolocation services prefer you’re connected to WiFi
Every Ohio sportsbook app must use a geofence system maintained and monitored by a location-based technology company. Ohio has licensed two such companies so far: industry leader GeoComply and Xpoint Services.
These companies identify geographical locations using the global position system, radio frequency identification and nearby WiFi signals.
I tried to place a bet in a Starbucks parking lot in Dent, Ohio, less than 10 miles as the crow flies from the Indiana border. PointsBet declined the bet: “Your device is outside of the permitted area and therefore is ineligible to place a wager,” the app said.
It encouraged me to enable Wi-Fi in case the mistake was on the geofencing side — maybe it didn’t have enough information to confirm the location. But I knew it wasn’t to be, so I proceeded west.
Even 1 mile is not close enough to bet in another state
Harrison, Ohio is only 1 mile from the Indiana border. But still I received a “geolocation error” when trying to place a bet on DraftKings.
DraftKings added another note to its instructions on how best to confirm your location, in addition to the request to turn on WiFi: “Disconnect from any VPN, WiFi hotspots, or company connections. Close out of any outside software you are running, and check your maps application to see where they are locating you.”
Here we learn that VPNs are no use against geolocation services. You might be able to watch out-of-market cable TV on a VPN, but you won’t be able to place bets in another state. (And, if you’re on a work Zoom call, you also can’t place a bet on that same device. Not that we’ve tried…)
Onward toward Indiana proper…
State Line Road passes the final test
The aptly named State Line Road travels north along Ohio’s western border from Route 50 for about a half mile before curving into Dearborn County, Indiana and heading north.
A Mexican restaurant called Valle Escondido just over the border appears to be a fine spot to place a bet in Indiana.
A quick geolocation check from the parking lot — while connected to the restaurant’s WiFi — received the green light from PointsBet, and within seconds a bet was placed on the Miami Dolphins -3 versus the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 11.
PointsBet’s current Indiana sign-up offer is a “second-chance” bet that offers a bet credit if your initial bet loses. So if the Dolphins don’t cover against the Chargers, I’ll have a bet credit of equal value waiting in the account next time I visit Indiana.
Ohio pre-launch bonus offers are better than standing offers
The PointsBet Indiana offer is a fine start to a new sportsbook, but the dozens of sportsbooks on their way to Ohio are offering much more generous options.
The following sportsbooks are currently offering $100-$200 in bet credits that will hit new accounts on Jan. 1:
- DraftKings Sportsbook Ohio: $200
- Caesars Sportsbook Ohio: $100
- BetMGM Sportsbook Ohio: $200
- FanDuel Sportsbook Ohio: $100
- Bet365 Sportsbook Ohio: $100
- PointsBet Sportsbook Ohio: $200
- Betfred: $20
Some of these sportsbooks offer additional bet credits for those who deposit and place bets within a certain time frame.
As always, “bet credits” and other promotions usually come with requirements on how many times money won using bet credits must be bet before cashing out, and sportsbooks do not pay out the initial stake when using a bet credit — only the amount “won” goes back into your sportsbook account.