Ohio Sports Betting Handle Clears $6 Billion in First Year of Legal Gambling

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jan 5, 2024 12:00 AM
In the first year of legal Ohio sports betting, state residents wagered over $6 billion.

One year of legal Ohio sports betting is officially in the books. And boy, was the inaugural 12 months of sports wagers a hit among gamblers.

The Buckeye State launched sports gambling operations on January 1, 2023. Exactly one year later, the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) reports that sports betting in Ohio generated more than $6 billion in total wagers during that span. 

That’s billion with a “b,” folks.

Just so we’re clear: This $6 billion figure is not Ohio’s net revenue. It is simply the total dollar amount of legal bets placed in 2023. Some tend to right off this number. But it’s important. Sports betting handles are a gauge for how popular legal gambling has become for each state. And larger sports betting handles tend to correlate with greater net sports betting revenue.

To that end, according to public records, Ohio generated over $100 million in sports betting revenue for 2023. Granted, that may not be the final number. At this writing, we are only a few days removed from the close of 2023. Ohio sports betting revenue could rise or fall depending on how much licensed bookies needed to pay out in winning wagers during the month of December.

Still, it’s pretty clear that Ohio sports betting is incredibly popular among residents. What’s driving its exposure? And what changes might we see to the sports betting market in Ohio moving forward as a result of this popularity? Let’s dive into how these projections impact the future of sports gambling in The Buckeye State.

Online Sports Betting in Ohio Fuels the State’s Nine-Figure Revenue Stream

In many ways, the first year of Ohio sports betting isn’t atypical. The newness of legal gambling is usually accompanied with heightened interest. It is a novelty—something to which Ohio sports fans didn’t have access before. And eventually, novelties wear off.

The Ohio sports betting handle is no exception to this trend. Over $1 billion was wagered during the month of January 2023. That’s roughly 17 percent of the entire Ohio sports betting handle for the year. The combination of aggressive sportsbook bonuses drew in clientele and the novelty of getting to wager on sports incited more business than the state can typically bank on month-over-month. 

This isn’t meant to paint the Ohio sports betting handle in a negative light. This is merely the natural progression of the business. And the average Ohio sports betting handle after January 2023 was over $450 million per month. That’s hardly chump change. Other states have suffered larger drop-offs after their first couple months of business. 

Ohio ultimately inoculated itself against precipitous decline by allowing a ton of online sportsbooks in the United States to enter the market. The Buckeye State opened the sports gambling era with 16 Ohio online sportsbooks on the docket. They then proceeded to add another four mobile sportsbooks in Ohio before the end of 2023. 

Make no bones about it, this is an abnormal number of licensed operators. Some might argue it’s too many. From a business perspective, though, it’s pretty smart. Over 90 percent of all legal bets placed in Ohio last year were processed with an online sportsbook. The OCCC catered to the market’s demands. And it worked.

Reports of Problem Gambling are on the Meteoric Rise in Ohio

The first year of Ohio sports betting wasn’t all sunshine and dandelions. Not only did the OCCC need to investigate a handful of Ohio sports betting violations and scandals, but there was reportedly a massive uptick in problem gambling. As Neil Fischer of NBC 3 in Ohio wrote:

Meanwhile, the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio has seen an increase in the volume of calls they've received. ‘We started the calendar year off in the thousands,’ Michael Buzzelli, associate director of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, said. ‘Which was triple the amount from last year.’ Buzzelli says the ease and availability has brought in more, and often younger, bettors. ‘We used to see, 'My problem has been five years or more,’ he explained. ‘We're seeing higher volumes of people saying, 'My problem with betting is less than a year.'"

This trend is fairly typical for states that legalize sports betting. But that doesn’t make it any less concerning. States always need to be thinking about how they can limit the number of problem gambling issues. And that starts with identifying the main causes.

Accessibility is always a driving force in the first year. Sports gambling wasn’t legal in Ohio. And then it was legal. That increase in exposure will always lead to more issues. 

However, Buzzelli seems to think this rise in problem gambling is abnormally—and therefore uncomfortably—aggressive. He attributes the monstrous increase in calls to rampant sports betting advertisements. And it seems like state officials agree with him.

Changes May be Coming to the Ohio Sports Betting Market in 2024

Back in December, it was reported that amendments would be made to certain Ohio sports betting laws as early as 2024. These changes are expected to be targeted at advertising and promotional practices of Ohio online sportsbooks. 

Without having access to any concrete data, going this route appears to make sense.

Basically every state deals with an inundation of sports betting advertisements and promotional bonuses that can result in overexposure once they legalize gambling. But Ohio licensed so many online sportsbooks that the sheer volume of advertisements and bonuses designed to reel in people never truly tapered off. That most certainly could have contributed to the disproportionate rise in problem gambling.

Addressing this issue needs to be a top priority. And while we don’t know for sure how swiftly Ohio will react, they are among the states that have placed greater emphasis on regulation. It would seem, then, that they’ll use the 2024 legislative meetings to implement stricter advertising and promotional guidelines for licensed Ohio sportsbooks.

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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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