The Buckeye State is nearing the end zone on a multi-year process to expand gambling once again. Sports betting is coming to Ohio.
Ohio, surrounded almost entirely by states with legal sports betting, stands for now as a large anomaly bucking a Midwestern trend that has seen neighbor after neighbor legalize the activity since 2018. That is set to change, under legislation signed into law in late 2021. The passage of the bill makes Ohio — with its sizable population and a large number of professional sports franchises, plus Ohio State University — extremely attractive to sports betting operators.
The Buckeye State will enter the sports betting fold alongside neighbors Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Kentucky to the south will have to wait to resume its efforts. Ohio is going to approach legal sports betting by tying (or tethering) online and mobile sports betting platforms to land-based casinos or sports franchises, similar to what is being done in Arizona.
Legislation beginning the full legalization process was signed into law in December 2021 and the rulemaking process is currently underway. State regulators have indicated that sports betting won’t be live until late in 2022, but that’s fine for bettors in the state who have waited so long for sports betting to arrive. A few more months to wait will be no sweat.
OH Sportsbook Alternatives: Over/Under Player Props
The road to legal sports betting in Ohio
When HB 29 was passed by the Ohio Senate and House, it came as a shock to those following the sports betting industry. After years and years of back and forth between legislators and special interest groups, the bill has been passed and we now await the structuring of Ohio’s operator market!
With a self-imposed deadline of January 1, 2023, Ohio now has to set the rules and regulations for licensed operators who intend to set up shop in the Buckeye state. Sports betting is just months away, Ohio! But what does the bill include? What kind of parameters have already been set? The bill, which has been called “industry-friendly” by analysts, offers us a glimpse at what bettors should expect.
The bones of Ohio HB 29
Similar to how Michigan handled their statewide launch, the Ohio bill requires all operators to adhere to a universal start date, meaning that operators will all be approved for licenses prior, so no single sportsbook gets an unfair head start. While it may seem like this provision solely evens the playing field amongst operators, it also gives Ohioans more power in their choice. By giving everyone the same green light, Buckeye bettors can explore their options, while operators entice them with promotions and bonuses.
The tax rate set forth in the bill is set at a low 10%, which should maximize the state’s revenue by enticing competitive odds and offerings from rival sportsbooks. Choice is the weapon of the consumer, and Ohio has its resident’s interests in mind. That’s also probably due to the multiple states that border Ohio already offering sports betting opportunities to Ohio citizens who are able to cross a border to make a bet. By regaining the revenue lost to states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Indiana, Ohio can up their tax revenue, unlike any other state. What’s Pennsylvania and Indiana’s loss is Ohio’s gain!
Legislators also wanted the bill to include a specific focus on equitable access to sports wagering licenses in the state. Included within the bill is the requirement of a study meant to examine any instances where disadvantaged persons experience discrimination in the sports betting industry. The results of the study will then be applied to potentially subvert such discrimination, or at least dictate how equitable access within the state will be handled in the future.
eSports get the “OK”
Another fascinating, forward-thinking addition to this bill is that eSports are eligible for wagering. That’s fantastic news to bettors, operators, and gaming fans alike! By adding eSports to their offerings, Ohio is set to take a chunk of the billion-dollar industry, as video games and console gaming competitions become more and more prevalent in the mainstream. This is massive news for the sports betting industry.
Ohio sports betting license eligibility
Ohio is home to a handful of casino and racino venues, each of which is eligible to hold a sports betting license and host two online brands (skins). In addition, pro sports franchises are also eligible to get in on the sports betting action.
Casinos eligible for sports betting
- Hollywood Casino Columbus (Penn National Gaming): Located in Columbus, Ohio, Hollywood Casino Columbus offers more than 2,000 slots, 60 table games, and three dozen tables of live poker.
- Hollywood Casino Toledo (Penn National Gaming): As you could’ve guessed, Hollywood Casino Toledo is located in Toledo, Ohio. The venue features 2,000 slots, nearly 60 table games, and almost 20 live poker tables.
- Hard Rock Cincinnati (Hard Rock International): Formerly JACK Casino Cincinnati, this venue will be rebranded to Hard Rock Cincinnati. It is located in Cincinnati, Ohio, and boasts 100,000 square feet of gaming space.
- JACK Casino Cleveland (JACK Entertainment): Formerly Horseshoe Cleveland, JACK Casino Cleveland is located in Cleveland, Ohio, and has 100,000 square feet of gaming space, including more than 1,600 slots and more than 100 table games.
Similar to what we might see in Michigan, where Penn National Gaming operates Greektown Casino Hotel, we very well could see the company launch a regulated sports betting platform in Ohio once able to do so. As stakeholders in Barstool Sportsbook and a foot already in the door in the U.S. sports betting market, Ohio is another state where we could see Penn National Gaming become a big player.
Ohio racinos are also eligible for sports betting licenses
In addition to the state’s land-based casinos, Ohio is home to several racinos (race track and casino combined). These properties allow for a few more operators to get in the mix, such as Boyd Gaming, MGM, and Eldorado.
- Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment Center (Boyd Gaming)
- Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway (Penn National Gaming)
- Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course (Penn National Gaming)
- JACK Thistledown Racino (JACK Entertainment)
- MGM Northfield Park (MGM Resorts)
- Miami Valley Gaming (Churchill Downs/Delaware North)
- Scioto Downs Racino (Eldorado Resorts)
MGM owns and operates MGM Northfield Park, a 200,000 square foot racino in Northfield, Ohio, that was formerly the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park. The BetMGM online and mobile sports betting platform continues to grow throughout the U.S. and we can expect the brand to become available in Ohio once allowed.
Eldorado Resorts recently completed its acquisition of Caesars Entertainment. Caesars Sportsbook (formerly William Hill) has an arrangement with Eldorado and seems likely to outfit a sportsbook at that property. Caesars has operational sports betting lounges and apps in other states and will bring its new and improved Caesars Sportsbook to Ohio through its Eldorado property.
Pro sports teams can offer sports betting
While land-based casinos and racetracks get in on the action, there’s also room for some sports franchises to also dip their toe into the sports betting world. The new legislation authorizes no more than 25 Type-A licenses, which are specifically allocated not just for casinos and venues, but also for professional sports organizations. This could open up partnerships between sportsbooks and the ten pro sports franchises in Ohio, which include:
- Cleveland Guardians
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Cincinnati Reds
- Cleveland Browns
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Columbus Crew
- FC Cincinnati
- PGA Tour/Memorial Tournament
- Nascar/Mid-Ohio Raceway
To add further excitement for bettors, it was FC Cincinnati who spearheaded a joint statement issued to the Senate Select Committee on Gaming, in favor of legal sports betting. Jeff Berding, the co-founder and president of FC Cincinnati laid out the groundwork for what their coalition sees as the key foundation for what Ohio’s sports betting legislation needs to accomplish: protecting the fans and the integrity of each team’s sport.
“We believe Ohio’s sports betting framework should provide protections to consumers and the marketplace. We, the franchises, largely create the marketplace. With public help, both local and state governments, we have built the stadiums and venues where the games and matches take place. Of course, we are talking about many billions invested in Ohio’s sports facilities. And of course, we invest billions in the players. As such, we want to see a regulatory framework that promotes and ensures the integrity of the game.”
Ohio bettors, your teams have your back!
Professional Ohio Sports Teams
Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook and they are subject to change.
|Cincinnati Bengals||NFL||Win Superbowl +2200|
|Cincinnati Reds||MLB||Win World Series +100000|
|Cleveland Browns||NFL||Win Superbowl +2000|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||NBA||Win NBA Championship N/A|
|Cleveland Guardians||MLB||Win World Series +8000|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||NHL||Win Stanley Cup N/A|
Probable, possible Ohio sports betting operators
|Online Sportsbook Brand||License Partner||Ownership||Location||Online Launch Date|
|FanDuel Sportsbook||Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment Center||Boyd Gaming||Anderson Township||N/A|
|Hard Rock Sportsbook||Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati||Hard Rock International||Cincinnati||N/A|
|DraftKings Sportsbook (estimate)||Hollywood Casino Toledo||Penn National Gaming||Toledo||N/A|
|Unibet Sportsbook (estimate)||Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway||Penn National Gaming||Dayton||N/A|
|PointsBet (estimate)||Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course||Penn National Gaming||Austintown||N/A|
|BetMGM Sportsbook||MGM Northfield Park||MGM International||Northfield||N/A|
|TwinSpires Sportsbook||Miami Valley Gaming||Churchill Downs Inc.||Turtlecreek Township||N/A|
|Caesars Sportsbook||Scioto Downs Racino||El Dorado Resorts||Columbus||N/A|
|Barstool Sportsbook||Hollywood Casino Columbus||Penn National Gaming||Columbus||N/A|
|betPARX||PGA Tour/Memorial Tournament||Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment||Dublin||N/A|
|Fubo Sportsbook||Cleveland Cavaliers||Fubo TV||Cleveland||N/A|
|Tipico Sportsbook||Columbus Crew||Tipico||Columbus||N/A|
|BetRivers||Pro Football Hall of Fame (estimate)||Rush Street Interactive||Canton||N/A|
|Jack-branded with Kambi tech||Jack Cleveland Casino||Jack Entertainment||Cleveland||N/A|
|Jack-branded with Kambi tech||Jack Thistledown Racino||Jack Entertainment||North Randall||N/A|
|*Projected based on existing market access arrangements|
Two of the biggest players on the legal U.S. sports betting scene are DraftKings and FanDuel. Both have operational daily fantasy sports (DFS) platforms in Ohio, thanks to HB 132 being signed into law in late 2017. But this doesn’t mean DraftKings and FanDuel can simply open up their sportsbooks in Ohio once the state gives sports betting the green light.
Having operational legal DFS platforms in Ohio can show that DraftKings and FanDuel can operate under the state’s regulatory guidelines to create safe and secure platforms, but the two operators will still need to partner with a land-based casino if they want to enter Ohio’s legal sports betting market when it becomes available. Entering into an agreement with a land-based license holder will be nothing new for DraftKings and FanDuel, though.
The two operators have experience taking this path in other states. For FanDuel, they will almost certainly be the online brand for the Boyd Gaming-owned Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment Center, given the FanDuel-Boyd partnership in other jurisdictions. DraftKings could pair with any number of potential suitors. With each casino and sports franchise eligible for two online skins, there will be plenty of room to accommodate them.
Pro sports and college team presence in Ohio
Ohio is home to multiple prominent professional sports franchises, offering potential operators one of the most enticing markets in the country. Even before the state legalized wagering on sports, the Cleveland Cavaliers inked a partnership deal with Betway and Fubo Sportsbook.
With the Cavaliers and Guardians playing only a few minutes’ walk from the Jack Casino in Cleveland, it’s obvious why the industry sees Ohio as an extremely attractive market. But while professional sports are a piece of the pie, Ohio offers an even more exciting opportunity for sportsbooks looking to capitalize on the state’s extensive and hotly contested collegiate offerings.
Ohio State has long been the top dog in the college sports discussion, but with Cincinnati’s ascension to the College Football Playoff, the battle for the Buckeye state has begun. Beyond the bigger schools, Ohio is home to the majority of the schools within the Mid-Atlantic Conference, where bettors can get in on the “MACtion” as it’s commonly referred to.
The prominence of Ohio’s position in the US sports landscape gives perspective sportsbooks a unique opportunity to reach one of the sports hubs of the midwest for both collegiate and professional leagues. With a vibrant and competitive collegiate sports scene, Ohio is poised to cash in with wagering on the football field and beyond, much to the chagrin of some schools in question.
With states like New Jersey limiting bettors’ ability to wager on collegiate sports involving games in New Jersey-based schools, and games played within the state lines, it was uncertain as to where Ohio would land on the issue. In 2019, the Inter-University Council, which is made up of Ohio’s 14 public universities, spoke to Congress in opposition to the bill. The Council, which included the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, and Miami University of Ohio to name a few, stated that sports betting could be too much temptation for college athletes, and they could “take payoffs to downgrade their performance, share information on injured players and alter the outcome of games.”
College sports fans can breathe easy though, as HB 29 does not include any measure restricting the types of wagers eligible to be offered by sportsbooks. College sports are fair game for legal Ohio sportsbooks.
Ohio sportsbook available sports
While the bill doesn’t provide a full picture as to what sports are eligible for wagering, we can look to Ohio’s neighboring states to get a good idea. With the midwest becoming a bettors battleground, Ohio’s offerings will certainly need to be competitive! Here’s a list of some potential sports that are sure to be incorporated in Ohio:
- Basketball (NBA and NCAA)
- Football (NFL and NCAA)
While Ohio is home to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, as well as a few of the most historic sports franchises in the US, bettors should expect an expanse into some new frontiers. Here are some of the new and exciting betting opportunities that could be coming to Ohio bettors:
- Australian Rules Football
- Olympic sports
- Table Tennis
Bet types available in Ohio
Much like the list of available sports to bet on, the types of wagers you can place in Ohio should be just as competitive. If you can conceive it, chances are that sportsbooks operating in Ohio will let you bet it! Popular bet types in other states have included:
- Point spread
- Prop bets
- Parlay (this also includes same-game parlays)
- Live/in-game wagers
Ohio sportsbook promotions and bonuses
When Ohio’s sports betting landscape solidifies and operators are ready to open up shop, Buckeye bettors should expect to see a deluge of promotions and bonuses offered by sportsbooks. Building a business takes time, and the quickest way to get customers to check out your offerings, is with a bonus or a promotion, and the sports betting industry is no different! While the exact promotions offered to Ohio have yet to be determined, here’s a good idea of what could be on the horizon:
- Risk-free bet
- Deposit match
- Free bet credit
- Deposit bonus
- Odds boosts
- Cash out
- Merchandise giveaways
- And more!
Ohio sports betting banking options
Once sportsbooks have set up their operations and the state was given the green light for them to open, bettors will need a way to fund their accounts. Thankfully, operators have perfected the art of banking on their platforms. While each licensed operator has their own specific set of banking options, here’s a sample of what you can expect to see offered in Ohio:
- Online banking
- VIP Preferred ACH eCheck
- Play+ branded prepaid card
- Wire transfer
- Cash at the casino cage
- Paper checks mailed to your provided home address
- And more!
While these are just a handful of the available banking methods, by the time sportsbooks go live in Ohio there may be more. Every bettor has their preferred banking method, so be sure to check out all of the options first!
Ohio’s gambling history
Ohio is generally known as a more conservative state than many of its neighbors, which could help explain why it has been slower to take advantage of the sports betting opportunity since the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 2018 decision striking down a federal prohibition against it (outside of Nevada). The Buckeye State was later to the party, for instance, allowing commercial casinos years after Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania had already done so.
Prior to a statewide referendum approving casinos in 2009, the state only had its lottery and horse track racing, as voters had rejected casino proposals on multiple occasions previously. The four existing casinos opened in 2012-13 in the state’s major cities: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo.
In 2011, a governor’s executive order granted the seven racetracks the right to add video slot terminals under the regulation of the Lottery Commission. The racinos are not permitted to operate table games, but they collectively took in more than $1 billion in revenue from the slots in the last fiscal year.
The push for Ohio sports betting began in 2019
In 2019 things went into hyperdrive, as two competing pieces of legislation surrounding sports betting were introduced. HB 194 received much more attention than its Senate counterpart, as the House Finance Committee held nine different hearings on it since its introduction. On May 29, 2020, the measure passed on the full House floor by an 83-10 vote.
Despite its widespread approval in the House, the bill was dead on arrival in the Senate. The measure was primarily the handiwork of Republican state Rep. Dave Greenspan, supported by Democratic co-sponsor Brigid Kelly. The legislation’s biggest difference from what has passed in many states is the provision allowing bets at licensed social clubs. Greenspan said he would like to see the groups such as the VFW allowed one betting terminal each.
“In every one of our cities, big or small, there is a veteran hall or [fraternal club] really close by, and specifically, you have to be a member to place a bet,” he said of the proposal. Ultimately, Greenspan was willing to scrap plans for terminals (basically kiosks) all over the state, under a compromise with the Senate sponsors. Sen. John Eklund, also a Republican, sponsored SB 111, which was pending in the Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee at the time HB 194 went to a vote.
Previously, Senators Eklund and Greenspan had said there was an overlap in probably 90% of the provisions in their bills, which is part of the reason both have long been optimistic something will pass this session. Among the similarities, SB 111 also allowed the sportsbook industry’s highly coveted online/mobile sports wagering in addition to all collegiate as well as professional sports betting. The lack of a “college carve-out” would be a great asset to sportsbooks in terms of action they could thus generate on Ohio State Buckeyes contests, in particular.
As in other states, Ohio’s colleges and universities banded together to seek a prohibition on wagering on their contests, but state lawmakers are not looking to oblige the schools on that front. In the end, consensus couldn’t be reached and Ohio sports betting failed in 2019. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
Renewed efforts for Ohio sports betting in 2021
August of 2021 was a crucial month for Ohio’s sports betting talks. Eklund and Greenspan, among other key policymakers and stakeholders, continued a dialogue behind the scenes and reconciled their measures in advance of their chambers considering a new draft bill, one that was rumored to be favorable to the industry.
As with most pieces of major legislation, a compromise bill at that stage would have meant a conference committee ironing out differences between competing versions once the House and Senate have both acted. The key lawmakers involved would then hash out a version acceptable to both chambers, which could be voted upon and sent to Gov. DeWine for his signature.
That is exactly what Greenspan anticipated would occur. “It’s safe to say when these bills go through conference committee, we’ll come up with a [final] resolution there,” the House sponsor said. “I’ve always believed that from whenever the governor signs the bill, it would take four to six months for sports betting to take place.”
But Ohio bettors won’t have to wonder how much longer it’ll take for their state to legalize sports betting. HB 29 was passed by both the House and Senate on December 8th, 2021, and was signed into law by Governor DeWine later that month. Now that the bill is law, we know that sports betting will be fully legal and live in Ohio before 2023. A great ending to a long journey.