Officials are Considering Changes to Ohio Sports Betting Licenses

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 11, 2024 08:00 PM
Officials are Considering Changes to Ohio Sports Betting Licenses

Significant changes may be coming to the process of obtaining—and retaining—Ohio sports betting licenses

The measure in question is aimed at approved sports gambling providers in the Buckeye State who have yet to activate their operations. If the Ohio Casino Control Commission approves this initiative, it would effectively strip the dormant operators of their license. By extension, then, it would thin out the ranks of those allowed to offer sports betting in Ohio.

No final decision has been rendered as of this writing. That is, at least not publicly. The Ohio Casino Control Commission set a May 7 deadline to reach a consensus. Nearly a week later, the end result remains unknown.

Regardless, it behooves us to ask various versions of a simple yet salient question: Why is the Buckeye State looking to make this change to the Ohio sports betting process? What are the full details of this proposal? And what impact will this have on the future of the Ohio online sports betting market?

What Changes Should We Expect if This Ohio Sports Betting Amendment Gets Approved?

Here is the exact language in the Ohio sports betting proposal, courtesy of Gaming Today’s Bryant James:

“If the executive director determines at any time that a type A sports gaming proprietor licensee has not actively offered sports gaming to patrons under the license for a continued period of one year or more or that the proprietor was issued a license because of a preference described in division (A) of section 3775.041 of the Revised Code and no longer qualifies for that preference, administrative action to revoke the applicable license will may be taken against the licensee. Notice of the proposed action and an opportunity for hearing will be provided in the manner prescribed under Chapter 119 of the Revised Code and Chapter 3772-21 of the Administrative Code. In so doing, the executive director may issue an emergency order in the manner prescribed by division (G) of section 3772.04 of the Revised Code. Such administrative action will not affect any other sports gaming proprietor licenses that are held by the licensee. A type A sports gaming proprietor may not apply to renew its license if it did not actively offer sports gaming to the economic benefit of the state under the license during the preceding license term and must wait a minimum of one year from the expiration of the license before seeking another license.”

For anyone wondering, this change would not impact any of the top online sportsbooks in the United States. The DraftKings and FanDuels of the industry have been active since sports betting in Ohio launched roughly 18 months ago. This measure seems more so aimed at professional sports properties that have yet to make use of their licenses.

Which Ohio Sportsbooks Could be Impacted by Proposed Licensing Change?

As Gaming Today noted, three of the 22 sportsbooks in Ohio with Type A licenses could be impacted by this initiative: Underdog Sports, which is partnering with MLB’s Cincinnati Reds; WynnBet, which has a license through JACK Thistledown Racino; and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, who have a Type A license but whose partner, Fubo Sportsbook, shuddered operations almost two years ago.

More operators with Type B licenses stand to be impacted by this potential change—seven of them, to be exact. Here is the full list:

  • NFL’s Cleveland Browns (Bally’s)
  • Crew SC Stadium Company (Tipico)
  • Lori’s Roadhouse
  • Muirfield Village Golf Club
  • Phantom Fireworks
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame Village, which originally had a deal with BetRivers
  • SPIRE Institute

It isn’t immediately clear whether any of the 10 impacted Ohio sportsbooks have contested this measure. Every stakeholder has apparently known about the amendment since the state started considering changes roughly one year ago.   

Really, it feels like the Ohio pro sports franchises are the impacted parties to watch. The Reds, Cavs and Browns are all big-ticket franchises. Having any Ohio sports betting license would presumably be lucrative for them. In fact, we find it surprising that any of them, let alone all three, have yet to offer sports betting services.

What’s the Logic Behind This Proposed Ohio Sports Betting Measure?

Many still don’t understand the endgame here. Does the OCCC simply want to open the Ohio sports betting licensing process to other operators? Are they unhappy with the revenue to date and hoping this will coax licensed-holders into increasing the scale at which wagering is offered?

Upon further review, it seems the aim is just the opposite.

As Cleveland.com’s Sean McDonnell noted, the language in this bill is actually less restrictive than the current rule. As of now, approved parties now have one year to activate sports betting services before losing their license altogether. This proposal creates a pathway to them essentially getting an extension on that timeline. 

On the surface, that would seem to make this measure a no-brainer. Then again, certain officials may want to reopen the licensing process to stakeholders with more immediate intentions. Though the gambling in the Buckeye State remains popular, the sports betting revenue in Ohio actually fell to kick off 2024. It stands to reason this wouldn’t be an issue if, say, the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Cavaliers were using each of their sports betting licenses. 

And yet, worrying over the early-year revenue seems premature. Ebbs and flows are part of the industry—especially following the first year of sports betting. That’s typically when online sports betting bonuses and promotions start to winnow in volume and appeal. Nevertheless, this is an issue worth keeping an eye on. In the end, it will either protect licensees who haven’t yet used them or open the door for Ohio to explore alternative sports betting applicants.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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