Ohio Sports Betting Handle Failed to Meet Opening Year Projections

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Feb 13, 2024 12:00 AM
Though Ohio sports betting has proven to be a success overall, it turns out The Buckeye State failed to hit its gambling handle goal in 2023.

Despite taking in over $7.5 billion in total wagers last year, it turns out the 2023 Ohio sports betting handled ended up missing expert projections.

This news comes as an eyebrow-raiser to many. Ever since sports betting in Ohio launched on January 1, 2023, it appeared that the rollout was a resounding success. Sure, The Buckeye State dealt with their fair share of issues. The problems include investigative scandals, compliance violations and even an uptick in reported gambling addiction. And to be clear, there is no downplaying any of these issues—particularly when it comes to problem gambling. However, these obstacles are not unique to Ohio sports betting. They are dilemmas every state with legal sports gambling faces from the onset of their rollout. And in most cases, they don’t prevent places from hitting their sports betting handle projections.

So what happened in the case of Ohio? How much did they miss their gambling-handle forecast by? What might change about the sports betting system in The Buckeye State moving forward? And should officials be concerned about the opening-year performance of sports wagering?

Let’s get into it all.

Ohio Sports Betting Handle was Supposed to Hit At Least $8 billion in 2023

Experts apparently predicted that the 2023 Ohio sports betting handle would eclipse $8 billion. That’s not incredibly far off from the $7.5 billion in business the state actually did. At the same time, as Amanda Tonoli explained for Columbus Business First, some in the state expected the handle to approach $10 billion:

“Ohio saw $7.6 billion worth of sports wagers in 2023, according to an Ohio Casino Control Commission report. That’s just shy of the $8 billion to $10 billion analysts had predicted for the state’s first year with legal sports betting.  Wagers generated $936.9 million in total taxable revenue for the year, which measures the amount sports betting operators kept after paying out gamblers’ winnings and returning money for voided wagers.Since the beginning of legal betting on Jan. 1, 2023, the state’s received nearly $115.8 million in sports gaming tax receipts, according to the Office of Budget and Management. With fees and other related payments, the total sports gaming-related revenue received and transferred total $166.6 million.”

Many won’t be able to muster much concern on the heels of this report. After all, the Ohio sports betting handle was 95 percent of the way to $8 billion. But as others will point out, failing to meet the baseline projection could be a red flag. At the very least, these returns warrant further consideration and analysis.

Why Did Ohio End Up Missing Their 2023 Sports Gambling Handle Projections?

The Ohio Casino Control Commission, which released this report on February 4, has yet to elaborate on potential causes and factors behind the final betting-handle number. Over time, we’d expect a more extensive overview of what, if anything, went wrong.

For now, we’re left to speculate. And our best guess might seem like a copout, but it’s nevertheless poignant: First-year sports betting projections are tricky.

Analysts were not working off an established baseline of Ohio Sports betting when they cobbled together their forecasts. The entire process was new to the region. Indeed, the performance of other markets can help as a guide. But sports betting launches in the United States are, in many ways, a matter of trial and error for the first year—and sometimes beyond.

We also can’t ignore the role promotional bonuses from the top online betting sites potentially played. 

The best online sportsbooks in the USA tend to inundate customers with sign-up and deposit bonuses during the first few months of the launch. Immediately, it isn’t clear whether wagers placed using promotional money counts toward the final Ohio sports betting handle tally. We do know, however, that these transactions are usually tax write-offs for sportsbook operators. That, in turn, means they do adversely impact the final gaming-related revenue Ohio receives over the course of the year. 

Theoretically, then, The Buckeye State’s first-year handle could be deflated. The same goes for their sports betting revenue. These returns could go up in Year 2.

Sports Betting in Ohio is Still Considered a Success 

From the outside looking in, the Ohio Casino Control Commission doesn’t seem too concerned about the 2023 sports betting handle. And that’s probably the right call. 

Ohio sports betting revenue still exceeded $165 million after factoring in all expenses. That’s an infusion of cash the state didn’t have before. Beyond that, despite missing handle projections, The Buckeye State established themselves as a top-tier sports betting market in 2023.

According to the Ohio Casino Control Commission report, the state’s $7.67 billion sports betting handle ranked as the sixth-highest total in the entire country. That’s not an insignificant achievement for a market navigating their first year of legal gambling. 

On top of that, Ohio sports betting bonuses could face new restrictions in 2024 or beyond. We can’t be certain this is in response to their 2023 handle, but first-year performance no doubt played a role in the Ohio Casino Control Commission contemplating and proposing any changes.

This is all to say: The future of the Ohio sports betting industry likely has nothing to worry about. It was still a lucrative rollout. If the state needs to adjust their expectations in the long term, then they’ll do just that. 

In the meantime, we’d expect projections for the 2024 Ohio sports betting handle once again to land somewhere between $8 billion and $10 billion

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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