After February’s Super Bowl — the biggest sports betting event in the United States — football fans jonesing for more gridiron action had an immediate option.
The XFL returned for its 2023 season on Feb. 18, just six days after Super Bowl LVII.
But, while football fans in Ohio can watch XFL games on ABC and ESPN, those wishing to bet on the matches are out of luck.
Ohio sports betting kicked off statewide on Jan. 1, 2023, but the state is one of a small handful of legal sports betting states that currently do not allow betting on XFL games.
Ohio “temporarily” denied request to allow XFL betting
To have a sport, league or event added to the list of sports approved for wagering in Ohio, sportsbooks operating in the state must submit a formal request to the executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, which maintains a catalogue of approved events and wager types.
All requests for additions to the catalogue are reviewed and then either approved or denied by the OCCC’s executive director.
Only one sports gaming proprietor needs to request an addition.
“Proprietors are made aware of what requests have been submitted so there are not duplicative requests,” says Jessica Franks, the OCCC’s director of communications.
Franks says that, prior to the start of the XFL’s 2023 season, a sportsbook operator did ask for the XFL to be added to the OCCC’s Event and Wager Catalogue, but the request was denied.
“A request to add the XFL was submitted to the Commission earlier this year and was temporarily denied after a review by staff and the Executive Director,” Franks says.
XFL can be resubmitted for consideration
When asked for a reason why the XFL was denied approval to be added to Ohio’s sports betting options, Franks did not offer a specific rationale.
Franks instead offered a list of criteria the commission considers when reviewing wager/event requests:
- The quality of the governing body’s documented integrity program.
- The general availability of information related to the governing body.
- The professional or skill level status of athletes.
- The history of integrity related to events (sanctioned) by the governing body.
Though Ohio bettors cannot wager on any XFL games during its 2023 season, there is a chance that could change ahead of the league’s 2024 season.
“In most cases where a request is denied, proprietors can resubmit the request after six months,” Franks says.
XFL is technically “new” league, with complicated history
Without being presented with a specific reason for the denial, based on the criteria Franks offered, it’s possible that a request to add the XFL was denied due to the league’s relative newness and complicated history.
The current iteration of the XFL is the brand’s third. This is the first season of the current XFL, which features an entirely new ownership group and governing body. Therefore, it would have been difficult to determine the XFL’s “history of integrity” before a single game had been played.
The XFL was first introduced in 2001. A joint venture between Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (now known as World Wrestling Entertainment) and NBC, the original XFL was a sensationalistic version of American football.
Though the gameplay on the field was real and unscripted, McMahon brought a lot of the WWF’s “sports entertainment” mindset to the XFL. The league was presented as an alternative to what McMahon called the “No Fun League.” Cheerleaders were even more overly sexualized and encouraged to date players (the NFL forbid cheerleader/player relationships), for example.
The original XFL also promised fewer penalties for things like unnecessary roughness, encouraging “tougher” play. There were a few rule changes, including replacing the opening coin toss with an opening scrum, where two players scrambled for the ball placed at midfield. An omen of things to come, the very first “human coin toss” in the XFL resulted in one of the players dislocating his shoulder.
The original XFL never caught on with viewers and was plagued with technical, financial and other difficulties. The league folded after one season.
XFL currently in its third iteration
McMahon, who called the original league a “colossal failure,” revived the XFL in 2020. The new XFL dialed back most of the over-the-top aspects of the original league, though McMahon couldn’t help but take a shot at the NFL, forbidding players from making political statements on the field — like taking a knee during the National Anthem, the source of major controversy in the NFL.
The XFL was doomed again, but this time it was a global pandemic that would take it down. XFL 2.0 was shut down after five weeks of play due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The XFL filed for bankruptcy a month later and put itself up for sale, with the stipulation that McMahon not buy it back. In the summer of 2020, an ownership group led by investors that included former WWE wrestler (and onetime college football player) Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, bought the league for $15 million. (Under new ownership, that ban on “political gestures” was overturned.)
The inaugural season of the third version of the XFL — which features eight teams, including three based in Texas — concludes on May 13 with the XFL Championship Game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
XFL gameplay is almost identical to the NFL’s, with only minor rule differences. For overtime, each XFL team is given three chances at a 2-point conversion, with the team with the most conversions deemed the winner. There are also tiered extra-point attempts (with the option for 1-, 2- and 3-point conversions) and a rule that allows for two forward passes on one play.
Most states that have legalized online sports betting allow betting on the XFL, including neighboring Michigan, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Besides Ohio, the only other states that currently do not allow XFL betting are New York and Indiana, which did allow XFL wagering in its 2020 incarnation. Washington D.C. also doesn’t allow betting on the XFL.
What football betting is allowed in Ohio?
Though betting on XFL games is currently not allowed in Ohio, there are a plethora of football-betting options available in the state.
Ohio sportsbooks have numerous betting options related to the NFL, of course, from player prop bets and other novelty prop bets to game outcomes, futures and even (in a limited capacity) draft picks, which Ohio recently approved in time for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Besides the NFL, in the OCCC’s Event and Wager Catalogue, the following football leagues are also listed as approved for wagering in Ohio:
- NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A)
- NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA)
- Canadian Football League (CFL)
- United States Football League (USFL)
The USFL, which began its 2023 season April 15, has a lot of similarities to the XFL. The USFL is also a “reboot” effort. The original incarnation ran from 1983 to 1985. The current USFL had its inaugural season in 2022.
Though Ohio doesn’t technically have a USFL team, the league’s New Jersey Generals and Pittsburgh Maulers play at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, which also hosted last year’s USFL championship game. (USFL’s eight teams all have different “home cities,” but games are held in just four locations.)
Most Ohio sportsbooks have betting options for the USFL. Sportsbooks like FanDuel Sportsbook, Tipico Sportsbook and betPARX Sportsbook let users bet the moneyline, over/under and spread, as well as on who will win the league’s championship game. The Birmingham Stallions are currently favored at most sportsbooks to win the USFL championship this year.
There are similar betting options available at Ohio sportsbooks for the CFL, which begins its 2023 season in June. Users in Ohio can currently bet on who will win the CFL’s Grey Cup championship game in November. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who lost last year’s Grey Cup by 1 point to the Toronto Argonauts, are currently favored to win the 2023 CFL championship game.