Four Notable Sportsbook Apps That Aren’t Coming to Ohio (Yet)

Written By Mike Breen on December 22, 2022
ESPN Sportsbook Ohio

When Ohio sports betting goes live on Jan. 1, bettors in the state will have plenty of options to place bets using online sportsbooks.

Twenty-five sportsbook operators initially applied for a license to operate apps in Ohio. The sportsbook apps the Ohio Casino Control Commission has approved so far include the biggest online sportsbooks in the United States, like FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars.

But there are a few notable sportsbook apps that won’t be available for Ohio bettors when sports betting launches statewide.

That could change in the new year (or beyond). But, as of right now, here’s a look at some online sportsbooks that have yet to apply for a license to operate in the Buckeye State.

SI Sportsbook has Sports Illustrated, 888 backing

SI Sportsbook launched in 2021 with a few things going for it to suggest it would be a big player in the sports betting world. With the Sports Illustrated branding, the sportsbook had big name recognition right out of the gate.

Giving it even more reputational weight, Sports Illustrated partnered with 888 Holdings for SI Sportsbook. 888 is a global leader in online betting and gaming, with properties like 888 Casino, 888 Poker, Wink Bingo and William Hill. SI Sportsbook gave 888 a stronger foothold in the growing U.S. online gambling market.

SI Sportsbook was rolled out in Colorado in 2021 and this year it opened for business in Virginia and Michigan.

While SI Sportsbook could expand to new states in the new year, don’t look for it to move into the Ohio market any time soon. 888 recently announced that, due to the highly competitive nature of the online sports betting business, the company was going to focus on launching SI Sportsbook in states that allow online casino gaming, not states — like Ohio — that have only legalized online sports betting.

FOX Bet Sportsbook currently available in four states

Like SI Sportsbook, FOX Bet Sportsbook seemingly had a marketplace advantage thanks to its connection to a well-established and -resourced sports media company — in this case, FOX Sports. The synergistic possibilities between FOX Bet and FOX Sports seemed ideal for growing the sportsbook into a legit contender.

Initially partnered with PokerStars parent company The Stars Group — which was soon sold off to international gambling holding company Flutter Entertainment — FOX Bet launched in 2019.

FOX Bet Sportsbook is currently available in Colorado, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; all but FOX Bet Colorado offer casino games within the app as well. There is also a free play app called Fox Bet Super 6 that is available to users nationwide and offers cash prizes.

FOX Bet Sportsbook has struggled to gain traction, reportedly only accounting for .2% of the U.S. market. And it has been in a complex legal battle with Flutter Entertainment, which is also the parent company of FanDuel Sportsbook, one of the dominant forces in US sports betting. Fox and Flutter were locked in a dispute over how much Fox could pay for an ownership stake in FanDuel. In November, an arbitrator ruled that Fox could purchase an 18.6% stake in FanDuel for $3.72 billion.

In the arbitration ruling, the court ruled against Fox’s claim that Flutter “had failed to provide commercially reasonable resources to the operation of FOX Bet.” Fox has the right to purchase 50% of The Stars Group if it gets fully licensed to operate it. If not, both Fox and Flutter have the right to dissolve the FOX Bet agreement in August 2023, which would mean the end of FOX Bet.

So expansion possibilities for the struggling FOX Bet don’t seem to be a priority right now. Don’t hold your breath for it to be an online sportsbook option for Ohio bettors.

Golden Nugget Sportsbook recently acquired by DraftKings

A legacy brand in the gambling industry, Golden Nugget’s chain of casinos grew out of its original Las Vegas location, which opened in 1946. Golden Nugget entered the online gaming market in 2013, with online casino games available in New Jersey.

The company got into the online sports betting business in New Jersey in 2018. Since then, Golden Nugget Sportsbook has expanded into Michigan, Arizona and West Virginia.

Golden Nugget Sportsbook launched in Virginia in 2021, but it was shut down in the state following the completion of DraftKings’ deal to acquire Golden Nugget Online Gaming in May 2022.

According to a press release, that deal expands DraftKings internet gaming offerings and brings Golden Nugget Online Gaming onto DraftKings’ in-house proprietary platform. Some retail sportsbooks at Golden Nugget properties are being rebranded with the DraftKings name.

Golden Nugget’s online casino products seem primed for growth as a result of the deal, but it’s unclear so far what this will all mean for the Golden Nugget Sportsbook. Considering DraftKings’ position as a market leader in online sportsbooks, it’s fair to guess that Golden Nugget Sportsbook will be a lower priority for the company.

Could an ESPN Sportsbook be coming?

If FOX Sports and Sports Illustrated seem like ideal sports media partners for online sports betting, ESPN would appear to be a slam dunk to produce an ESPN-branded sportsbook.

Besides sports broadcasting rights, ESPN produces extensive sports betting content and programming. ESPN also has business relationships with Caesars (ESPN’s official odds provider) and DraftKings, which sponsors its daily fantasy sports content. ESPN also has link-out deals with both brands as well.

In June, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro ramped up speculation about an ESPN Sportsbook when he appeared on The Athletic’s Sports Media podcast and said a sportsbook was “a must-have.” In October, a Bloomberg report said that ESPN was “nearing a large new partnership” with DraftKings, further fueling speculation.

But in late November at the Sports Business Journal conference in New York, Pitaro poured a little cold water on the prospect. Pitaro said that while they’ve been exploring “leaning in a bit more” into the sports betting space, ESPN will not be creating a sportsbook.

“We are not going to, and I’ve said this repeatedly, we are not going to create a book,” Pitaro said. “We’re not going to take people’s money. We are not going to set lines and spreads and odds. It’s not what we do.”

Ohio will still have plenty of sportsbook apps options

Don’t worry, bettors! Even though Ohio won’t be welcoming in a few online sports betting operators with big-name recognition, there will soon be plenty of sportsbook apps to choose from after the Jan. 1 statewide sports betting launch.

On Dec. 21, the OCCC released an initial list of 12 retail sportsbooks and 16 online sportsbooks that are fully licensed to begin business on Jan. 1. The commission noted that the list could still grow before the launch date.

It will certainly grow in due time as the other 15 conditionally approved sportsbooks prepare for their entrances into the Ohio market.

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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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