Ohio Sports Betting Change Could Give Cleveland Cavaliers Longer to Find Online Sports Partner

Written By Mike Breen on May 8, 2024
Cavs Online Sportsbook

The Ohio Casino Control Commission recently proposed changes to a rule requiring sports-betting license holders to use their licenses or risk losing them. The new change would explicitly give the commission’s executive director discretion to give a license holder, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, more time to use the license and begin taking bets in the state.

The current rule states that administrative action to revoke the license would be taken if sports betting licenses are unused for a year or more. The proposed rule change states such action “may” be taken. 

Several businesses that received licenses to facilitate either retail or mobile sports gaming failed to take bets in 2023, the first year of legal Ohio sports betting. Prior to the start of 2024, the OCCC granted them a six-month extension to begin taking bets. That extension expires at the end of June.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of a handful of mobile sports betting licensees who have yet to take a bet in Ohio. The Cavs have yet to announce the required services provider partnership. 

Rule would require waiting period to re-apply after license expiration

Jessica Franks, director of communications at the OCCC, said that some license holders have experienced issues beyond their control that have caused delays.

Franks told PlayOhio:

Some proprietors have encountered issues with finding partners or with supplier services being disrupted due to the situation in the Ukraine region.”

Another part of the new rule would not allow a licensee to renew its license if it goes unused and expires.  Ohio sports betting licenses generally cover three to five years. 

Franks said:

“If a licensee does not actively offer sports gaming during its license term, it cannot renew the license and must wait one year before seeking another license.”

Ohio has several unused sports betting licenses

In Ohio, Type B licenses allow a proprietor to partner with a sports gaming operator to offer in-person retail sports betting. Companies with active Type B licenses that have yet to use the license or announce a partner include the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village in Canton and Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin.

Type A licenses are for mobile/online sports betting. Among those with unused Type A licenses in Ohio are the Cincinnati Reds, who partnered with Underdog. The popular fantasy sports operator only recently launched its Underdog Sports platform for the first time in North Carolina, so an Ohio launch could be imminent. JACK Thistledown Racino is partnered with WynnBet, but has yet to launch its sportsbook. WynnBet appears to be winding down its sports betting operations in the U.S., after it shuttered its sportsbook in the past year in 10 of the 12 states it was operational. 

The businesses with an unused Type A license and no announced service provider partner are JACK Cleveland Casino, Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Before Ohio’s January 2023 sports betting launch, the Cavs partnered with Fubo, the television streaming platform that had launched Fubo Sportsbook. But a few months before Ohio’s launch, Fubo announced the closure of its sports betting arm, leaving the Cavs without a mobile sportsbook partner ever since. 

Cavaliers have found success with retail sportsbook

The Cavaliers also have a Type B license and have found success with its retail Caesars Sportsbook at its home arena, the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. The in-person sportsbook has done increasingly solid business, thanks in part to an increase in Cavaliers betting this NBA season.

The sportsbook at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse benefits from foot traffic from the many top concerts and other events at the arena, including a slew of sporting events. In March, Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse hosted eight Cavs home games. The MAC Men’s Basketball Championship tournament and several Cleveland Monsters hockey games also took place at the arena in March, while April welcomed the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four and championship game and saw more Cavs home games, including the start of the NBA Playoffs. 

The increased action at the arena helped lead to record-setting March sports betting numbers for the Caesars Sportsbook, which took $6 million in bets for the month. That was easily the highest Ohio retail sports betting handle for a single location ever. 

Crowded Ohio sports betting market may be making Cavs partnership hard to find

The Cavaliers could increase its sports betting numbers with an online sportsbook partnership. But the lack of a viable partner may be holding up the team’s decision to move into the mobile sports betting market. 

Ohio currently has 19 active online sportsbooks. That means most of the leading sportsbook brands, from DraftKings and FanDuel to BetMGM, bet365, Caesars, and ESPN Bet, are already spoken for. Even sportsbooks that have had a smaller impact nationally, like Tipico, BallyBet, Betway, BetFred, and BetParx, already have Ohio partnerships. 

The unaccounted-for U.S. online sports betting operators still available for Ohio partnerships are minimal. The few companies available to the Cavaliers that haven’t entered Ohio yet include Circa Sports and betting exchange operators like Sporttrade and SBK. 

Or the Cavaliers may wait for a newcomer to enter the U.S. market, either a previously-existing overseas operator or a new sportsbook built from scratch. Late last year, Ohio became the first state for new online sportsbook Prime Sports, which partnered with the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio for market access.

Photo by Dreamstime / PlayOhio
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Mike Breen

Mike Breen covers Ohio’s budding sports betting industry for PlayOhio, focusing on online sportsbooks and the state’s responsible gambling initiatives. He has over two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture in Ohio.

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