AUSTIN, Texas — Ohio sports betting likely won’t launch until 2023.
Rick Anthony, deputy executive director for the Ohio Casino Control Commission, tells PlayOhio that he doesn’t anticipate sports betting starting at any earlier date in Ohio.
Legislation passed by Ohio lawmakers last week requires the commission to complete all necessary steps for market launch by Jan. 1, 2023. Anthony said the commission is telling industry stakeholders not to expect to launch any sooner.
“We have a year, and we do feel a year is needed,” Anthony said. “Because of the across-the-board universal start date, including the retail components in the bill, we feel that will be the date.”
In an interview at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States conference, Anthony explained the steps forward for the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) and why it’s likely to take a full year to prepare for Ohio sports betting.
Ohio Legislature gives Commission a lot to do
Ohio regulators will need all of 2022 to prepare for a robust sports wagering market set up by lawmakers.
House Bill 29 includes three classes on sports betting participants.
- A license: Permits 25 online sports betting licenses. Only the casinos/racinos and sports entities are eligible to apply for a second skin. And it’s up to the commission to determine if issuing a second skin would benefit the state.
- B license: Permits about 40 brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. These must be spread throughout the state with counties of 800,000+ population having no more than five; counties at 400,000-799,999 no more than three; 100,000-399,999 no more than two, and the commission can consider issuing one license to counties between 50,000 and 99,999 that see 5 million tourist visitors annually.
- C license: Provides a maximum of two kiosks at thousands of Class D liquor license permit holders (think bars, restaurants, some grocery stores). These locations already have lottery kiosks through the Ohio Lottery.
“We feel the bill as it is now, we can regulate it and we can regulate it fairly,” Anthony said.
Anthony said Ohio has looked at Maryland and Illinois as examples of states that put out similar legislation. Maryland recently launched retail sports betting seven months after the bill was signed into law. Online wagering will take longer.
In Ohio, the OCCC asked for a uniform launch date for all.
“We’ve been in contacts with other regulators to understand how the industry works,” Anthony said. “Our agency has been anticipating this for a while. We have people on staff who know a lot about the sports betting industry in the country.
“We have a very good starting point on what we want to do.”
Drafting rules and regulations
Anthony said it would take the OCCC nine months to complete rules and regulations for sports betting, if everything goes well.
And that’s even though the OCCC is nearly ready to go on its first draft.
“I would expect our first drafts of the rules in the first quarter of next year,” Anthony said. “We have ideas of what we want to do and have been working on them since the bill was introduced.”
Lawmakers did not include an emergency rulemaking provision in the bill. So once the OCCC releases its draft rules and regulations, these steps will follow:
- An organization called Common Sense Initiative takes public input on the rules. The group may ask the commission for explanations or recommend changes before sending the rules back to the OCCC.
- The OCCC will take stakeholder comments.
- The OCCC drafts final rules and sends them to the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. JCARR can review the rules for up to 65 days.
“We’ll be very transparent as we write the regulations,” Anthony said. “We’ll hold stakeholder comment periods on our own, in addition to the statutory comment periods. Our goal would be to try to get as many people in the industry on the same page before we formally file our rules.”
Ohio sports betting application process will be complicated
Anthony said not to expect applications to be available until July or August.
The legislature left a lot open when it comes to sports betting license applications.
Of the 25 type A and 40 type B licenses, 11 are likely to go to casinos/racinos and 10 to sports teams/entities.
That leaves four online licenses and 19 retail licenses up for grabs, and it’s uncertain what sort of companies will apply for them. It’s up to the OCCC to determine they meet the bill’s requirements for these companies to have standing in the state.
Type B applicants must specify their expected overall capital investment in the sports gaming facility, including its size, furnishings and equipment.
The Commission also must ensure Type C sports gaming host licenses are equitably distributed across the state.
Through June 30, 2023, the law permits the OCCC to issue provision sports gaming licenses to assure all applicants can launch at once.
Then the OCCC’s compliance division will work with the applicants to assure internal controls and policies are completed correctly before launch date.
He’s not yet sure what criteria the commission will use to determine the issuance of second skins.
“We’re not that far along to determine what the criteria is going to be, or whether people even want them,” Anthony said.
Not everyone needs to be ready for launch
Getting everyone ready to launch at once is the most complicated aspect of the coming process.
Anthony noted that the commission will give everyone who wants to the opportunity to launch on Jan. 1, 2023. But entities that aren’t ready to go aren’t going to delay the process.
“If we have people ready to go and we have people that don’t have complete applications, we’re not going to hold up the launch,” Anthony said. “But everybody that’s ready on our universal launch date will be able to start the same day.”
Before the commission can get going, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine needs to sign the bill. He has 10 days from when the law hits his desk to sign the bill into law. It’s unclear if the bill has reached his desk yet.
He’s expected to sign it before Christmas, and Anthony said he hasn’t heard any doubts that the governor will sign.
Then it will be up to the commission to make sure that Ohio sports betting is ready to launch by the beginning of 2023.
“Our goal is not to have it ready for any one sporting event or anything,” Anthony said. “Our goal is to make sure we’re being methodical in a reasonable way to get things right. Everyone says it’s better to not be as quick as perhaps everybody wants, but to make sure you do things right.”