Sports betting is on its way to the Buckeye State. Ohio is currently working through licensing, background checks, equipment distribution and other steps toward launching online sports betting, retail sportsbooks and betting kiosks throughout the state on Jan. 1, 2023.
Virtually every major online sports betting operator should be ready for the opening with plenty of lead-up time to secure licenses and gain approval from the Ohio Casino Control Commission.
As is the case for many states, the potential to increase gambling revenue — and thereby taxes — is the primary goal of the new law. So what can we expect for Ohio sports betting revenue? And what about state tax proceeds?
Ohio sports betting revenue forecast
PlayOhio projections have bettors legally wagering between $9 billion and $12 billion per year after an initial acquisition period of 12-18 months. This ramp-up to an initial state of maturity may happen more quickly in Ohio than in some other states given the open licensing structure and the long lead time to launch.
Competition should additionally work in bettors’ favor by keeping sportsbook margins close to the national average of 7.1%. Using that number as a guide, annual revenue should fall between $650 million and $850 million within the same timeframe.
Promotional deductions will keep the total effective tax rate below the statutory 10%, but, based on these numbers, the state should still expect to collect north of $50 million in annual tax revenue from Ohio sports betting.
Ohioans to bet big on basketball, football
Like in the majority of U.S. states, most of the betting in Ohio will be on football and basketball — the two most popular sports in the country.
On a per-game basis, football is the king of U.S. sports betting. A full season of NFL and college football action typically accounts for around one-third of the money people bet on sports in comparable markets, and there’s little reason to expect different in Ohio. If anything, the popularity of the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals may even increase that percentage.
This slice of the betting pie is especially relevant in the context of the anticipated launch timeline, which is going to miss the majority of the NFL season.
Projections indicate that the NBA and NCAA basketball will account for around another third of betting action, with March Madness representing the largest sports betting event of the year. Based on other states, college basketball should account for 15% or 20% of the total betting in Ohio.
Even with two MLB teams that call the state home, baseball betting should settle into a distant third place in Ohio. Hockey betting will make up another few percentage points of the total, followed by things like golf, tennis and motorsports.
Where will Ohio rank among sports betting states?
The seventh-most populous state in the country, Ohio is home to nearly 12 million residents and tens of millions of annual visitors. Of the states that rank higher, only Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York also have legal sports betting within their borders.
Ohio won’t compete on the same level as New York and its population of 20 million, of course. The addition of online betting has positioned New York as the new capital of sports gambling in the U.S. New Jersey is likewise locked into the silver medal position for the foreseeable future.
Ohio could, however, surpass Pennsylvania to compete with Illinois and Nevada for a top three spot on the U.S. sports betting revenue podium in 2024.
Factors affecting the financial outlook for Ohio betting
The optimism for sports betting in Ohio largely stems from the industry’s firm foundation in the state. Ohio policymakers drafted a blueprint that is as good as any in the country, striking a balance between the needs of the state and those of the industry.
Licenses are plentiful, allowing participation from the state’s existing gambling stakeholders alongside the largest national sports betting companies. Those local stakeholders also include a handful of companies with broader ambitions, including Caesars, MGM Resorts (BetMGM), Penn National (Barstool) and Delaware North (betly).
Competition among sportsbooks is fundamental to long-term profitability for any state, and up-front license fees should stack up in addition to this overarching forecast for operational revenue.
Taxes and fees
The state has also taken a moderate approach to taxation, at 10% of adjusted revenue. Those adjustments allow sportsbooks to deduct some promotional costs from their state tax obligation beginning in 2027.
This is perhaps the only area in which policymakers could have taken a more aggressive approach. Based on data from other U.S. markets, doubling or even tripling that rate would yield a near-direct increase in tax revenue with a negligible impact on total volume. Put simply, the financial framework in Ohio is particularly kind to sportsbooks.
Ohio is rich with the sorts of local sports teams that help a betting industry thrive, both at the professional and college level.
It is, most notably, home to eight pro sports teams, including franchises in each of the Big Four US sports. While success for some of these franchises has been spotty in cases, recent history has been more kind to the Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA) and Cincinnati Bengals (NFL).
Many of Ohio’s college teams, meanwhile, do have a long-standing tradition of excellence. Ohio State University is a perennial college football powerhouse and one of 13 in-state programs that compete in NCAA sports at the Division I level.
It’s also worth mentioning that Ohio is home to an annual NASCAR race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, as well as an annual PGA Tour event at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Both of those venues are eligible for sports betting licenses, as is pro football’s Hall of Fame Village in Canton.
Sports betting geography, on the other hand, is not especially favorable for Ohio.
It is nearly surrounded by states that already allow online sports betting, notably limiting the potential to draw visitors looking to wager. The exception lies along the southern border, where the Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati do figure to send bettors across the border. Overall, the impact of non-residents on Ohio sports betting revenue should be modest.
What about college betting restrictions in Ohio?
This forecast assumes that people in Ohio will have a full menu of professional and college sports on which to bet. At the time of writing, however, regulators were considering any number of limitations ranging from restricted bet formats to a full prohibition.
Based on data from other markets, a ban on college betting in Ohio could lower the revenue ceiling by 15% to 20%. And the tax impact could perhaps be slightly larger than that.
More than half of U.S. states where sports betting is legal have a law or a rule in place that limits betting on college sports, though only Oregon imposes a complete ban. Lawmakers in other pioneering states, like New Jersey and New York, have meanwhile been working to roll back restrictions that their legislatures previously imposed.
Benefits for problem gambling treatment, youth sports
Proceeds from most forms of sports betting in Ohio will constitute a dedicated Sports Gaming Revenue Fund, which will first cover the administrative costs associated with regulation.
The majority of the remaining proceeds will support education and local youth sports programs, while 2% will help address problem gambling and addiction. The law also creates a new nine-member panel to investigate the mental health impact of legalized sports betting in the state.
The Legislative Budget Office forecasts that the initial license fees of at least $10 million will represent the majority of sports betting revenue for the 2023 fiscal year, which ends June 30.