With less than 100 days until a full-scale launch of legal sports betting in Ohio, the state’s top gaming regulator and the industry’s primary lobbyist are both cautiously optimistic about a strong rollout.
On Jan. 1, 2023, Ohio will become the first U.S. state to launch retail and online sports gambling simultaneously. Industry experts predict Ohio to be the next billion-dollar sports betting market.
Speaking on a regulators panel at the East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City, Ohio Casino Control Commission Chair June Taylor said the agency is diligently trying to assist potential operators ahead of Jan. 1.
Taylor said the OCCC has already approved some 1,700 sports betting licenses with roughly another 900 to go.
“Our team in Ohio is putting an enormous amount of hours in trying to help these vendors and everyone get to the process,” Taylor said, adding that commission staffers are making themselves available beyond regular business hours to ensure deadlines are met. “It’s an inordinate amount of work.”
Ohio: big sports betting market, big undertaking
On New Year’s Day, Ohio will join 31 other states and Washington D.C. in offering residents legal, regulated sports betting. Four states bordering Ohio — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia — already have legal sports gambling.
Lawmakers in the country’s seventh-most populous state passed sports betting legislation in December 2021.
Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, acknowledged “some frustration in Columbus” with the speed at which Ohio moved on legal sports betting. But the chief executive of the industry’s largest trade organization said the final results should be worth the wait.
“I think (Ohio legislators and regulators) were very thoughtful in how they tried to, obviously, protect customers, but also to create the best possible experiences for sports betters. And, I think that they’ve come up with a pretty good product and a pretty good offering,” Miller told PlayOhio. “(But), it’s no small feat.”
Officials are available to help operators ahead of launch
Following her appearance at ECGC in New Jersey, Taylor told PlayOhio she had confidence in the OCCC staff to implement a smooth rollout.
“We’re working as expeditiously as we can,” she said. “We have an approach that really allows all the various levels of (operator) tiers to approach the commission. And, if necessary, we’ll work with people on an individual basis to make ourselves available. We’re trying to answer as many questions as we can to get people through the process in time because January 1 is it. It’s coming.”
The overall success of legal gambling in Ohio — which has only been permitted since 2012 — is no surprise to Miller, giving him reason to be bullish on the state’s sports betting launch.
“Ohio has been a great success story,” he said. “You’ve got a strong sports base, and it’s a prosperous state. So adding this kind of entertainment option to the people of Ohio made sense about 10 years ago when they decided to move into the space and continues to make sense as (the industry is) increasing the offerings in and around sports.”
Besides the high overall number of sportsbook licenses, one of the unique elements in Ohio will be the use of lottery kiosks to offer legal sports gambling. Taylor admitted she’s not entirely sure how that option will be received.
“In all fairness, I’ll say, to be determined (because) we don’t know yet,” Taylor said. “However, we’re trying to be as accessible as we can because people want to play and they want to be engaged. And so we’re giving it our best effort.”