Friday marks 100 days until the start of sports betting in Ohio.
Jan. 1, 2023, will be the biggest single-day launch of sports betting anywhere in the U.S., as the nation’s seventh-largest state will add online, retail and kiosk sports betting throughout the state.
But there’s still much to do, answers to come and developments to track before the Buckeye State gets its betting on.
Here are 100 lingering questions we have 100 days away from launch.
1. What is taking so long? There are a lot of licensing and background checks involved. In reality, the one-year lead-up to such a big launch is just about standard. Neighboring Indiana got it done quicker than almost anyone. At least Ohio isn’t Maryland, which is less than two months from the two-year anniversary of voter passage in 2020. It still hasn’t launched online betting and may not until after Ohio.
2. Is there a chance sports betting won’t launch on New Year’s Eve? Very unlikely. But if you want to worry, stories to follow there include the lack of disparity study and developing, unsettled stories, such as payouts from lottery retailers.
3. What will the first sports bet be in Ohio? Browns? Bengals? Buckeyes?
4. Who will make the first sports bet? Candidates include Gov. Mike DeWine, another politician, a sports hero or maybe several “first bets” at a handful of ceremonies across the state?
5. How glitchy will the midnight launch be on New Year’s Eve? Don’t expect to be betting online at 12:01 a.m. New systems and high volumes usually make the first few hours after a launch fairly frustrating.
6. Any chance glitches could last through 1 p.m. NFL kickoff Jan. 1? We hope not, but individual operators have sometimes had issues on the first day. That first day being the final NFL regular season Sunday could prove to be problematic.
Across the state
7. Which of Ohio’s four casinos will build the best retail sportsbook? It’s fairly shocking just how even Ohio’s casinos are in table games and slot revenue. As for sportsbooks, the two Hollywood Casinos (Toledo and Columbus) will have Barstool Sportsbooks (which are usually cool!). Cincinnati’s Hard Rock and Cleveland’s Jack Casino are in larger cities with pro sports. It will be fun to find out which is best.
8. Will sports betting be bigger in Cleveland or Cincinnati? The Cincinnati area should get spillover from the non-betting state of Kentucky and is a bigger metro area. But could being an NBA city, with ultimately less of a betting offseason, put Cleveland over the edge?
9. Which Ohio pro sports franchise will set up the best retail sportsbook? This week’s news that the Bengals are out of the (initial) race shakes this one up.
10. Will stadium sportsbooks be open year-round or just on game days? The NFL doesn’t allow in-stadium sportsbooks to open during games, but that’s not the case for other sports. But what about the hours on non-game days? And during the offseason? Sportsbooks will have to get creative and convenient for bettors to make a habit of it, especially when it’s available right on everyone’s smartphones.
11. How many Kentucky residents will cross the border to bet? GeoComply data from launch week and beyond will be interesting on both sides of the Ohio River.
12. How many Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana residents will come to Ohio for brands (and sign-up deals) they don’t have in their states? I’ll be honest: I’m a Michigan resident, and I’ll be visiting Ohio to see what deals are available.
13. Which retail locations are investing the most to add sportsbooks? Is there going to be a venue, without much competition nearby, that really gets it right as a destination betting space?
14. Will online sportsbook geolocation work properly near the Ohio border? This one could get a little dicey at times for folks near Toledo, Cincinnati and other border towns. If a geolocator places you in Michigan, even though DraftKings is live in Michigan, you can’t bet on your DraftKings Ohio app. This also goes without saying if you’re near the Ohio River and the geolocator has you in Kentucky. To be clear, this is not often a problem — unless you’re riiiiight on the border, that is.
15. Is there really going to be a sportsbook at Spire Institute, which is known primarily as a high school? There’s a bit more to this story, but the Spire situation has drawn the ire of responsible gambling experts.
16. How much will people bet at the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Canton has never had the cache and pilgrimage factor as Cooperstown. Could sports betting in the offseason juice visitors to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village?
17. Will all approved kiosk hosts receive their sports betting equipment on time during the holiday season? It seems like a tall task for workers to deliver (or collect?) and install new machines during the holiday season in the thick of an Ohio winter.
18. How much of Ohio’s bets will come from sports bars, restaurants and grocery stores? Will more people bet at Ohio Lottery kiosks than at retail sportsbooks? The answer to that could have a major impact on the betting environments crafted in other states.
19. Will grocery stores advertise sports betting at their locations? Interesting one here. “Come to Save A Lot and bet sports!” Would seem weird if they did, but weirder if they didn’t?
20. Will backlash about grocery store betting continue after launch? Bets at Kroger raised the eyebrows of media across the state. How long before it becomes just another normal part of Ohio life?
21. What will the hold numbers be for sports betting kiosks? I have to admit: fewer markets and grocery-store betting kind of scream “amateur hour” to me. It’ll be interesting to see if that is true for the customers and if bar-betting turns out to be a sucker bet.
22. Which type of business will take the most kiosk bets in Ohio? Sports bars seem like a safe bet, but what about more traditional eateries? Bowling alleys in between frames, or grocery stores on the way back to the car?
Impact on Ohio sports
23. Will more Ohioans bet on soccer or tennis? With two MLS teams and a crucial summer leg of the pro tennis tours, Ohio has an outsized impact on these “non-major” sports. But betting could explode down the road for both sports: the World Cup is coming in November and to North America after that. Meanwhile, tennis could be on the rise as a handful of young stars seemed to catch the sports world’s eyes this month at Flushing Meadows.
24. Which MLS rival will attract more betting: FC Cincinnati or Columbus Crew? They call the rivalry “Hell is Real.” We would advise against using that moniker for a sportsbook name.
25. Which of the state’s big three football teams (Ohio State, Bengals, Browns) make the first postseason run in the Ohio betting era? Ohio State is the best relative team here, but the Buckeyes’ margin is smaller. Only a College Football Playoff final appearance would qualify for bets this winter, while a playoff berth makes postseason betting possible for the pro football teams.
26. Will gamblers bet more on college football or NFL? It’ll be the NFL, but we suspect the margin could be closer in Ohio than in other states. Plus, an OSU appearance in the final this season could be the most-bet game of the winter.
27. Which Ohio pro team will attract the most futures bets? It’s gotta be the Browns, right? Nothing like a Super Bowl longshot try on a team that might not get it done in your lifetime, right? But imagine if they did…
28. How big will Super Bowl betting be in Ohio? Big, sure, but how much will the inevitable sign-up promotions juice big-game betting? Ohio will be the hot state for customer acquisition for brands this February.
29. Will sports TV ratings see a meaningful increase after the sports betting launch? Football ratings continue to rage upward, and it can’t be coincidence that folks around the country now have more at stake in games that might be otherwise meaningless. We’ll see if it also happens in Ohio and what the long-term story will be.
30. What sports will I be able to bet on in Ohio? We’re still not sure. The Ohio Casino Control Commission will maintain a catalogue of approved sporting events and wager types on its website. It’ll likely start small and stick with the major stuff. How liberal they get with small leagues and “sports” such as competitive eating and Academy Awards betting will be interesting to see.
31. Are there any restrictions on college sports? Basically no, though we’ll see if the OCCC puts restrictions on markets such as individual prop bets on college athletes at first.
32. What obscure sports will Ohio residents be able to bet on? Drone racing? Table tennis? How many cricket leagues will be on the Ohio sports wagering menu? These are the questions regulators will tussle with shortly after launch.
33. What sport (that isn’t football) will be the most popular for betting? There is a lot of buzz around the Cleveland Cavaliers this offseason. That, along with the NBA’s strong position with the online betting demographic, makes pro hoops a strong bet here.
34. How big will esports betting be? We’ve been waiting for esports betting to make its much-promised impact on the U.S. betting market. It’ll come someday in some form, but available licenses are too sparse for esports-focused platforms to pay up, and big brands such as DraftKings and FanDuel have more pressing priorities right now. Regulators haven’t approved esports betting in some states where it’s technically legal. Could Ohio’s more open market have an impact? Sure, but just how much remains to be seen.
Everything about the apps
35. What’s the best sports betting app? Depends on what you’re looking for. We like a handful of them.
36. When will the pre-launch promo offers start? Pre-launch offers already have started. And we hear more will be coming soon.
37. How long will the promo offers last? The best ones could come right at launch. We’ve seen in other states that sportsbooks are willing to take losses to win early market share. In a state as important to the industry as Ohio, however, you can bet sizable sign-up bonuses will be around for years.
38. When is the best time to sign up for a welcome offer? Before launch, in many cases. We’ll have all the details on the best offers here at PlayOhio.
39. Which sportsbook will offer the best sign-up deals? BetMGM and DraftKings had the best deals in Michigan. FanDuel is consistently good, while Caesars blew the doors off in New York.
40. How often will sportsbooks refresh their lists of promos? The promos will still be plentiful, but we’ve found in other states that the offers are just not as valuable. You’ll see plenty of same-game parlay promos, but less of the “bet these three games and get a free bet” deals that were around more frequently before investors made operators watch promo spend.
41. How many sports betting apps are too many? Most serious sports bettors have more than one app to “line shop” and take advantage of the occasional promo. But if there are 25 apps coming at launch, when is too many?
42. Do you have to wait until Jan. 1 to get your account set up? Yep. Pre-launch offers are out there and more are coming. You will supply some information for those when you sign up. The actual app registration and location checks won’t happen until midnight Jan. 1. And you won’t be able to use your promotional sign-up offers until after everything goes live.
43. How long after you deposit will you have to wait to bet? This process should happen relatively quickly for the more mainstream operators, though we note again that launch day always seems to have a few glitches and surprises. Every app is a bit different, but filling out forms, entering your social security number and, sometimes, sending a picture of your ID are all things you should be prepared to do upon sign-up.
44. How do you know which sportsbooks are legal? We’ll have the full list available here at PlayOhio, and the OCCC maintains the list of licenses at its website, too.
45. How long does it take to get my money after you withdraw? It shouldn’t take long: maybe a couple hours if you have your bank account connected to your app. Some apps, such as BetRivers, will pre-qualify you for certain amounts and give instant withdrawals up to that amount.
46. Can I use my existing sportsbook account from other states in Ohio? There could be a world someday where all apps can be used across state lines in legal sports betting states. We’re not there yet, particularly in places such as Nevada, where you have to sign up for apps at physical sportsbook locations.
47. Will retail sportsbooks have the same betting options as online apps? Generally, no. More robust betting options are available on the apps, while retail sportsbooks stick to more of the basics. The apps will have more props and parlay options, though retail sportsbooks will have more options than sports betting kiosks.
48. Will every sportsbook app be available on both iOS and Android? You’d think so, but this might not be the case. Some major operators have dragged their feet on this in the past in some states. It might be more prevalent in Ohio, where some new operators are joining the fray.
49. Which sportsbooks will also have a full desktop website versus only a smartphone app? Again, the new operators might be behind here. Take an operator such as Betr, which is new and wants to revolutionize micro-betting, marketing toward a younger demographic. They might not be as interested in a robust desktop website.
50. Which Ohio sports celebrities will serve as brand ambassadors? We’re working on putting a list together, but we’ll see if legends such as Joe Thomas, Eddie George or Barry Larkin help their retirement funds as sportsbooks pursue local connections with Ohio sports fans.
51. Will the ads ever stop? Expect to be inundated with sportsbook ads in January. And next football season, too. It’s going to seem like a lot, so be prepared.
52. Will I see sports betting ads on social media? You will. Especially if you are searching for such things on the internet. Promoted tweets and sponsored Instagram posts from sports betting operators are one tactic they will use to get in front of your face. Plus, regular meme posts from operators designed to go as viral as possible will be a new part of Ohio sports fans social media diets.
55. Will I see ads at local businesses for sportsbooks? Sure. Just like you see casino ads, there is no reason why casinos can’t market their sportsbooks and for non-casino retail sportsbooks to do the same. But the big online brands such as FanDuel, BetMGM and DraftKings should have by far the most exposure.
56. Are supposed “risk-free” promotions now a thing of the past? Well, they never really were “risk-free.” This is a little inside-industry stuff, but operators were misleading when they advertised “risk-free” bets that definitely had some risk. The newer names for the same promos, such as “No Sweat” bets and “Second Chance” free bets, are much more accurate.
57. As more people visit racinos to bet at retail sportsbooks, will more people bet on horse racing in Ohio? It stands to reason the industry will get a boost. Not only will the sports betting help the horse tracks, but you’d figure new customers will bet on some races, too.
58. How much impact will sports betting have on racino revenue? Like video lottery terminals nearly a decade ago, retail sports betting will help Ohio’s horse tracks. However, while racinos combine for nearly nine figures of monthly revenue from VLTs, sports betting will not earn that much.
59. Will I be able to bet on horse racing from a sportsbook app? Actually, no. Horse race betting will still be done online through advance deposit wagering on apps such as TVG, which for now operate independently of sports betting apps. However, there could be a day soon when you might be able to combine your online wallets for TVG and fellow Flutter brand FanDuel, along with Caesars and BetMGM horse racing and sports betting platforms.
(However, the Ohio FanDuel Racing app is now connected to the FanDuel Sportsbook app. So, kind of?)
60. How will horse racing handle stack up to sports betting handle? Horse racing will get blown out of the water. In 2021, horse racing betting handle for live racing and simulcasting in Ohio was $128.4 million, according to the annual report by the Ohio State Racing Commission. Sports betting should bring more than $5 billion in bets in 2023 and more as the market matures.
61. Will I be able to bet on the Kentucky Derby on my sports betting app? No. Pari-mutuel horse racing will still be done on horse racing apps such as TVG. However, shared wallets between associated websites could be coming to Ohio soon, allowing bettors to move between TVG’s horse racing platform to the FanDuel sports betting app, for instance.
62. Is fixed odds horse race betting coming to Ohio someday? This might be the fastest way for you to bet horses on your sports betting app. Operators such as PointsBet are looking at fixed odds horse racing, where you bet odds that are set when you wager. However, getting fixed odds horse race betting approved by the OCCC might face opposition from the strong horse racing lobby.
63. How much will Ohio sports media embrace sports betting content? It’s a slippery slope. New bettors will want some content but some won’t want it at all. Betting discussions will join the sports radio, podcast and print media world in Ohio in a major way. But it’ll be important to strike a balance.
64. … and will they do it responsibly? The legalization of sports betting doesn’t mean journalists should fall for offshore sportsbooks sending press releases with wacky (and still illegal) odds markets they are putting out for free publicity. With enough lead-up time, hopefully responsible messages and education will get across.
65. Which medium is most likely to embrace sports betting content? Internet-based outlets such as websites and podcasts are the places to find more sports betting content, as well as social media channels. Newspapers and TV stations are doing some, but probably not enough, frankly. Though some of their longtime customers surely will want no betting content on their TVs or in their morning paper.
66. Will Ohio residents know the difference between regulated and offshore sportsbooks? A switch will not flip on Jan. 1. In fact, offshore sportsbooks will use the media attention on sports betting to send out digital advertising of their own, hoping consumers assume it means every operator is now legal. It’ll take some time for legal sportsbooks to win the long game, but hopefully it will happen eventually.
67. What Ohio media personalities will occupy the sports betting corner? As you probably know, some have been talking about point spreads and moneylines for years. But we’re anxious to see which sports radio talking heads and sportswriters are the ones to take the sports betting ball and run with it.
68. Will there be Ohio-specific touts promoting pick services? There will be that. Some free advice: you basically never want to pay for picks. Especially from someone so willing to sell their information. A general rule about sports bettors is the best ones don’t want you to know what they know.
69. Will Ohio be ready with its responsible gambling measures? They’ve been working on being ready for years. Therapists are being trained to work with problematic sports betting patients. Ohio is a national leader in responsible gambling efforts.
70. Will Ohio develop a sports betting problem? It’s probably more of a national question than a state one. And the honest answer is we don’t know everything about where this is all going. Increased gambling options lead to more individuals being negatively impacted. Having a regulated environment and real responsible gambling resources in place definitely helps, though. But it’s important for everyone involved in the ecosystem and the community to be vigilant about how residents are impacted.
71. How much backlash will there be from sports betting detractors? There will be some backlash about the prevalence of ads and the big handle and revenue numbers that will come. These developments are expected and play out in every new sports betting state across the country.
72. Will Art Schlichter resurface to share his cautionary tale? It might help. Schlichter hasn’t surfaced publicly since being released from jail last summer. Perhaps hearing about a former Ohio State hero’s battle with gambling addiction could shine some light on negative behaviors and alternate paths.
73. Pete Rose is going to be coming around, isn’t he? If there’s a paycheck…
74. Are problem gambling helplines going to be advertised sufficiently? The phone numbers will be everywhere. Let’s start here: the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline is staffed 24/7 at 1-800-589-9966. Sports betting platforms may be able to advertise the national hotline, 1-800-GAMBLER.
75. Are problem gambling helplines going to be inundated with calls? There have been increases in helpline calls in each new online gambling state, which we expect in Ohio. The increases will be big, but most of those calls will be from people having technical issues with their app — having a “problem gambling” — not because of actual problem gambling. Real data about serious and widespread problem gambling issues wouldn’t come for years down the road.
Brands arms race
76. Will Betr spark a microbetting movement in U.S. sports betting? Joey Levy and Jake Paul hope so. Read up here on details about Betr.
77. Will Ohio bettors gravitate toward FanDuel or DraftKings? Our survey this summer indicated DraftKings had more brand recognition, but FanDuel is No. 1 nationally for a reason. If DK is willing to spend, it could become an interesting battle for the top spot.
78. Will it be BetMGM or Caesars for the third podium spot on the handle rankings? DraftKings and FanDuel battling for first is a pretty safe bet. These two being next, in some order, also seems likely. However, Barstool Sportsbook could enter the top four with a big push in the Buckeye State.
79. Which sportsbook will spend the most on ads? BetMGM made a big national push to enter the top tier of sports betting operators, so they’re one to watch (or turn off, if you’d prefer). Expect to continue seeing Jamie Foxx plenty on your TVs, along with a bevy of BetMGM ambassadors. They didn’t shell out that money for spokespeople to not let them speak.
80. Do daily fantasy sports operators have a head start in Ohio? Definitely. Customer bases for DraftKings and FanDuel from DFS have proved invaluable in the U.S. sports betting early days. Of course, deep pockets don’t hurt, either.
81. Will Bet365 Sportsbook spend handsomely in Ohio? That’s one of the big U.S. sports betting market storylines the industry will be watching in Ohio.
82. Will betting exchanges carve out a niche in Ohio like they have in the UK? Prophet Exchange is going to bring betting exchanges to Ohio, but it might be more of a long-term play. But it’s interesting to note how much bigger the betting style is in Europe. It could be an early glimpse of something that will be bigger here down the road, too.
83. Is Fanatics the next major sports betting brand in the U.S.? It hopes so, but I don’t see it. There’s a lot of ground to catch up on at this point. Fanatics is a big brand, but not that big. Ohio could be a nice boost in Fanatics becoming a mid-range online sportsbook, which is a significant place to be. Still, if they make an acquisition of an existing brand sometime, that could change things.
84. Is there a major sportsbook brand that won’t enter the Ohio market? All the big brands will be here. However, with all the Disney talk recently about ESPN joining the sports betting game sometime, it could be significant someday that the Worldwide Leader wasn’t involved in Ohio’s launch in any way, shape or form.
85. Which operator will have the smallest sports betting handle? We always talk about the biggest winners, but what about the other side? I won’t speculate, but, yeah, we’ll be watching that, too.
Market and impact
86. Where will the new Ohio sports betting market slot in the 2023 national handle rankings? It won’t be first and won’t be 10th. Somewhere in between those spots.
88. Will Ohio have better bettors than rival state Michigan? Always a competition here, huh? Through August, Michigan online sportsbooks had held 7.8% of bets so far in 2022. That’s the bar for Ohio bettors to clear.
89. How much tax revenue will Ohio sports betting generate in 2023? It won’t be much in the early stages as big promotional write-offs will eat into overall revenue and taxes. At maturity, though, the market should raise more than $50 million in tax revenue annually for the state.
90. What will be the largest single bet placed at an Ohio sportsbook? We may never find out such a thing, as big bettors are not always flashy about it. But one candidate is Barstool’s Dave Portnoy, who we might expect at one of the Hollywood properties on Jan. 1 or, perhaps, in Cincinnati for the Bengals’ Monday Night Football game on Jan. 2. We’ll probably hear plenty about his bets, which he’s inexplicably been able to place on his own platform.
91. What will future sports betting states be able to learn from Ohio’s launch? Some how-to’s (or perhaps how-not-to) on sports betting kiosks. Their prevalence is the biggest difference between Ohio’s sports betting environment and others. How betting goes at sports bars, grocery stores and bowling alleys could set or squash a trend started in Ohio.
Next on the horizon
92. How long will it take for online casinos to launch in Ohio? On one hand, legislators don’t want to push for more gambling too soon. But you also don’t want to wait too long while public opinion seems to support expansion. We haven’t heard anything about new developments, but we might be a year from serious discussions.
93. Is regulated online poker going to come soon? Same as online casinos. The reality about online poker is that it doesn’t move the needle revenue- and tax-wise. Those who love poker love it, but it’s not a legislative priority for the industry, which is focused more on sports betting now and online casinos next. But if there’s momentum for online casinos, online poker is usually tacked on as well.
94. Will retail casinos experience a boom or suffer a bust from sports betting? There has been no evidence that retail casinos are hindered by online sports betting. Casinos continue positive post-pandemic trends in many states where internet gaming, including sports betting, is live and launched. Adding retail sportsbooks to state casinos and racinos will just give another reason for people to visit.
95. Will sports betting cut into Ohio Lottery profits? This is another myth that has never proved true. Not even online casinos have slowed down the growth of lottery and internet lottery revenues, which still regularly hit records all over the place.
96. Will Ohio ever expand the number of brick-and-mortar casino options? Between four casinos and seven racinos, it’s hard to envision any major retail casino gaming expansion soon. But we’ve been wrong before.
97. What kind of additional legislation will be needed to move Ohio sports betting forward? All major gambling expansions will require some “clean-up” legislation, perhaps updating the tax code, slight rule adjustments or perhaps revisiting promotional write-offs by operators. Those write-offs were capped in Colorado and Virginia within a couple of years after launch.
98. Who do I contact to support online gambling expansion efforts? Your local representative or senator is a good start. These decisions are made at the state level so stick with the Ohio House and Ohio Senate.
99. Will Massachusetts or Maryland beat Ohio to the online sports betting punch? They are working out the details in those states, but here’s guessing both launch online betting after Jan. 1. States without a set launch date usually take longer than early estimates assume.
100. What state is going to launch online sports betting after Ohio? Assuming both don’t beat Ohio to launch, it’ll be either Maryland or Massachusetts. It seems like Maryland is a bit further along, so we’ll bet on them, though Massachusetts retail sports betting could launch before Ohio.