With a total of eight professional sports teams, Ohio boasts one of the more impressive sports markets in the U.S. Throw in Ohio State University and its perennially championship-caliber football program, along with a dozen other NCAA Division I schools, and it’s clear the Buckeye State isn’t short on sports interest.
So when sports betting in Ohio officially kicks off at the beginning of 2023, it’s no wonder why the Ohio market is expected to compete with the big states nearly immediately. But which sport and league will be the most bet on? Which team will garner the most handle?
According to the results of a recent PlayOhio survey, bettors in the state will gravitate toward the NFL more than any other league when Ohio sportsbooks officially open. The state boasts two NFL teams within its borders in the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals.
According to the survey, in which Ohio sports bettors were asked about which sports/leagues they plan on betting on, more than 75% said they plan to bet on the NFL. It was the overwhelming favorite among voters, as college football came in second at nearly 52%.
Between those two, it’s safe to say that football will reign king among Ohio sportsbooks in 2023. And while the NFL may dominate the handle as a league, there’s reason to believe college football, specifically Ohio State, could compete with the professional teams as the most bet-on team in the state.
Football is king in Ohio
There are multiple reasons to believe football will be king when Ohio sports betting launches this winter. First off, football betting is popular everywhere, representing about 30% of national handle.
According to a previous PlayOhio analysis, Ohio sports betting could generate $8 billion to $10 billion in total handle in Year 1.
PlayOhio estimates Ohio’s football betting handle will include 85% NFL and 15% college. If football betting represents one-third of an estimated $10 billion handle, Ohio will attract about $2.8 billion in NFL bets and around $500 million from college football.
Taking a look at current odds on DraftKings Sportsbook, the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns find themselves in similar situations. Despite a recent Super Bowl appearance, the Bengals have the same odds as the Browns to win it all next year at +2500 on DraftKings, which will be available for wagers in Ohio on Jan. 1.
Cincinnati’s total wins over/under, however, is slightly better at 10, while Cleveland sits at 9.5.
Ohio State over Bengals, Browns for Ohio sports betting?
It shouldn’t surprise anyone the NFL is likely to be the most popular league at Ohio sportsbooks. However, with loyalties and interest being split between the Bengals and Browns, there’s good reason to believe Ohio State could outpace both of them in terms of future handle.
The biggest reason for that is that the Buckeyes don’t have to compete with anyone else. While the popularity surrounding both pro teams is high in Ohio, it’s impossible to get out of each other’s way.
Despite eight other FBS football programs in Ohio, including the University of Cincinnati coming off its best football season ever, the competition isn’t as fierce for Ohio State. It’s called the Buckeye State for a reason; the Buckeyes should have a strong grip on the Ohio collegiate market.
For instance, let’s take a look at stadium size:
- Ohio State (Ohio Stadium): 102,780
- Bengals (Paul Brown Stadium): 65,515
- Browns (FirstEnergy Stadium): 67,895
While this isn’t a tell-all factor, it could shed some light on how much each team could be bet on. For instance, fans who are attending games are more likely to place bets being surrounded by various sports betting signage. By squeezing in nearly 40,000 more fans into Ohio Stadium, the Buckeyes already have an advantage.
However, Ohio State really could take advantage should it ever set up a sports betting partnership with an operator. The Browns have an agreement with Bally’s, whose brand will appear in a sports betting lounge inside FirstEnergy Stadium next season.
The Bengals didn’t mention a lounge or physical sportsbook when they announced their partnership with Betfred, which will operate their sports betting app. However, a retail partnership announcement could come soon.
Ohio State and … Michigan State?
The Buckeyes don’t have to look far for an example of what they might want in a partnership.
Enter Big Ten foe Michigan State.
In early 2022, MSU athletics announced Caesars as its partner for sports betting. New premium seating at Spartan Stadium and a tailgating area were included in the deal to entice potential bettors.
Ohio State easily could use this blueprint when it eventually decides to partner with an operator. There are also numerous other deals that already have been made at the college level it can use as research.
Currently, the Buckeyes have the second-shortest odds to win the 2023 national title at +300, per DraftKings. Alabama is the favorite at +175.
OSU is the odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten at -215 and is given -255 odds to be selected to the College Football Playoff.
Other sports to be bet on
While football is very clearly the favorite, the PlayOhio survey revealed a plethora of other sports/leagues bettors in the Buckeye State plan on diving into. For instance, the NBA, which boasts a local team in the Cleveland Cavaliers, wasn’t far behind college football at over 47%.
After that, the numbers start to dip more fiercely. MLB came in at roughly 33%, while the NHL nearly hit 19%. Although perhaps not as popular, one can surmise that Ohio bettors will be keeping tabs on the Cleveland Guardians, Cincinnati Reds and Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively.
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Some of the items submitted under the “other” category were MMA/UFC/WWE, horse racing, college basketball, NASCAR and volleyball.
A couple of things to note: First, online Ohio horse racing betting is already legal here and several reputable horse betting sites operate in the state. These sites, including TVG, offer advance deposit wagering on horse races taking place all around the country and internationally.
Additionally, while a few respondents to the PlayOhio survey seem eager to place bets on wrestling, it won’t be for the WWE, AEW, etc. The regulated market does not allow bets to be placed on a scripted wrestling match. However, when the Olympics roll around, wrestling will likely be sanctioned, allowing those interested to place a bet.
More PlayOhio sports betting survey results
PlayOhio surveyed 620 Ohio residents who currently bet on sports in Ohio. Among the findings:
- 46% of Ohio sports bettors plan to bet weekly;
- Over 90% said betting on a legal site is either “very important” or “somewhat important;”
- More than half plan to sign up for a new sportsbook app once sports betting in Ohio is legal.
Find more details about the survey results here.