The rust belt was fairly quick to get in on legalized sports betting. And while Ohio is mostly following its neighbors to the party, it’s rolling up fashionably late as the gold standard.
We believe Ohio has created the nation’s best sports betting environment. But that doesn’t mean it can’t learn a thing or five from nearby states (and a province) in order to keep getting better.
So, when sports betting launches in Ohio later this year (or on the first day of next year), here are five lessons learned from other locales, as provided by our experts that cover those jurisdictions.
1. Jake Garza, PlayIndiana: Pivot to online casinos soon
Indiana’s gambling market has almost everything you could ask for. Hoosiers have access to casinos, lottery tickets, horse racing and a litany of online sports betting options. The one thing missing is online casinos.
Indiana legalized sports betting back in 2019, but there hasn’t been much progress for new gambling legislation since then.
If there’s one thing Ohio can learn from the past few years of Indiana gambling, it’s just how important a quick move to online casinos can end up being. If Indiana could do it all over again, it would have pivoted over to online casinos a lot faster.
After two straight years without meaningful progress, the Hoosier State will take another swing at things in 2023, But by then, it will have been four years since Indiana embraced sports betting. That big gap is already starting to cause issues for the state’s online casino push.
Any online gaming bill will have other competing interests to elbow out of the way these days. For example, a push to legalize online lottery tickets could steal the spotlight from online casinos in 2023. That wouldn’t have been the case if Indiana had really pushed for online casinos right after it legalized sports betting.
To be fair, these problems aren’t all on lawmakers’ shoulders. The pandemic threw a wrench into the state’s internet casino plans. Shorter yearly sessions made public health the priority and put adding new gambling options on the back burner.
Ohio shouldn’t have the same hoops to jump through when it tries to legalize online casinos. The world should look a lot different in 2023 compared to the early days of the pandemic. Once lawmakers in Ohio see how successful sports betting is, it might be easier to get the ball rolling on internet casino legislation.
Indiana’s advice for its neighbor? Don’t wait to start pushing for online casinos. The longer it takes, the more likely that unpredictable factors could start to get in the way.
2. Drew Ellis, PlayMichigan: Ask for more from the industry
Congratulations to our southern neighbors for creating an excellent sports betting environment for fans and operators alike. Now the question is: What else is in it for you?
We know the top-level benefits: Sports betting is fun and a nice supplement to the sports fan experience. A competitive market will give Ohio players choices, value and safety.
There’s also the tax revenue, which should be plentiful in the long run.
But take it from us, as in Michigan we created probably the best online casino environment in the country. Michigan internet gaming tax revenue has eclipsed $400 million for public coffers in the first 15 months. Michigan is also fueling huge revenue infusions for brands that are otherwise dumping money into the chase for sports bettors around the country.
What did we get for it though? PointsBet Sportsbook opened an American office — in Colorado. FanDuel created a hub for tech jobs — in Atlanta. Look, we know Detroit doesn’t have the draw to outsiders like Denver or even Dallas, but we’d like for someone to set up shop here.
Or, what about a gambling brand putting real money into responsible gambling treatment and putting an in-patient clinic in Michigan? We’d love to be an agent for positive change here.
Sure, the legislator who moved the law through Lansing also got a nice, cushy job in the industry. But I don’t know … sometimes we feel a bit … used?
So my advice to Ohio is this: Know your worth to the gambling industry and don’t be the latest flyover state to be taken for any kind of ride.
3. Dave Briggs, PlayOntario: Limit the ads, not the message
Hello, Ohio! It’s your friends from Ontario checking in from the other side of Lake Erie. As good neighbours, we’re here to tell you we not only believe in the mandatory and excessive use of the letter “u” we’re just as outlandish and pernickety about our gaming regulations. This is especially true of our advertising policy. Learn from us.
Strangely, gaming operators can — and do — bombard our citizens with ads. Yet, the regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, does not allow them to mention any inducements, bonuses, or credits. Companies have them, you just have to interact directly with them to find out what they are. It’s kind of like an advanced scavenger hunt.
This has led to some intense “Pick Me!” moments in the schoolyard, especially since Ontario is already home to 18 live sportsbooks less than two months in with at least 16 more entering the market soon. Remember what I said about things being excessive here?
While it’s great from a responsible gaming perspective that our operators can’t tout tempting offers that can get some people in trouble, it hasn’t stopped operators from endless messaging, particularly on national sports broadcasts. The ad assault is so intense, The Beaverton, a Canadian satire publication something like The Onion, recently published a story with the headline: “Poll: Majority of Canadians favour making sports betting illegal again just to get rid of the f#%$king ads.”
Limit the ads, my friends — whether that’s during certain hours or as a certain percentage of all ads. I know, I know you live in the land of free expression and free enterprise. But just do it. You’ll thank me later.
4. Katie Kohler, PlayPennsylvania: Keep the tax rate low
Hey, neighbor. Online sports betting is coming to Ohio soon and you should be excited because first of all, it’s supposed to be fun. Play responsibly, set limits, and probably fade the Cincinnati Reds.
When Pennsylvania was the new kid on the block, we were teased by our neighbor, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
He said, “Let’s take a state that has really screwed [sports betting] up. Pennsylvania. I mean, a rolling dumpster fire. It’s the opposite of Field of Dreams. If you do that, they won’t come.”
Christie was mostly referring to the 34% sports betting tax rate, then the highest in the country. New York, which has to be first in everything, is now the highest at 51%.
Nearly three years after online sportsbooks arrived in PA, the tax rate didn’t turn off operators. There are now 14 sports betting apps live in PA. However, it’s easy to see that operators are hamstrung by the high tax rates when it comes to offering promos and lower vig. It can be not great for bettors here sometimes.
The state regulators don’t approve certain things for sportsbooks to offer like wagering on any pro drafts and college player prop bets. These aren’t necessarily huge markets but in a state like Pennsylvania with a strong base of sports fans, the interest is there. It can force bettors to go to other states, or even worse — choose to spend their money at unregulated grey market sites.
But with the nice 10% tax rate for operators, Ohio has built a player-friendly start so far. And just like in Field of Dreams, if you build it…
5. Chris Imperiale, PlayWV: Do that due diligence
Well it appears in Ohio, you’re on your way. Here in West Virginia, there is now a solid collection of premier online sports betting apps. But it didn’t start out that way.
Initially, the first online option to launch in WV was BetLucky Sportsbook in December 2018. This represented the only mobile platform in the state for quite some time.
BetLucky actually shut down and is no longer in service due to various contract disputes between multiple companies. It was the first sports betting quagmire in the U.S. and could’ve been avoided with proper due diligence performed by the companies and regulators.
This left WV residents without online betting for more than five months after the much-anticipated debut. It wasn’t until August 2019 when two respectable sportsbooks hit the market with FanDuel and DraftKings at around the same time.
BetMGM, Caesars and PointsBet came on over the next two years. Now, with five great sportsbooks in the state, betting is starting to steadily increase each year.
After WV clearly didn’t handle its sports wagering launch properly, Ohio intends to showcase a wide variety of all of the big-name operators on the start line. When residents have the ability to bet online for the first time, they’ll have more than enough options to work with.
But first, the application and licensing processes in Ohio will have to take place. Before launching, take it from us in West Virginia: Take your time and do it right.