Need proof that things can change fast in the world of legal sports betting? Look no further than Ohio. At the end of July 2022, it seemed like the launch for sports betting throughout Ohio would be delayed yet again. Many people, in fact, wondered whether legal Ohio sports betting wouldn't take effect until 2024 or later, much less 2023.
But barely a week later, the Ohio Casino Control Commission, which is in charge of the state's online and on-site rollouts, announced that sports betting in Ohio will be legal and fully implemented as of January 1, 2023. Not only that, but they're making a real show of it. Where other states preparing to roll out sports betting are choosing mid-morning and -afternoon start times, Ohio will allow residents to legally place wagers once the ball finishes dropping in Times Square, at the stroke of midnight eastern standard time on January 1.
Talk about your complete 180-degree turns. Not that sports enthusiasts throughout the state care. Most are excited that Ohio sports betting won't be pushed back for the third time. It was initially supposed to be ready in time for Ohioans to bet on the start of the 2022 NFL season. Once that became a pipe dream, it wasn't entirely clear when everything would come together.
What ultimately led Ohio to meet the January 1 deadline? And more importantly, what should people in Ohio expect from the sports betting experience? Are there any limitations? Or special disclaimers?
In advance of this historic occasion, we've got the answers.
Ohio Trying to Capitalize on NFL Playoff Betting Revenue
Most states have structured their legal sports betting rollouts around the NFL schedule. Ohio is no different. The NFL is the most popular sport to bet on in North America, and Ohio has two flagship franchises under their umbrella, in the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Cavaliers.
To say betting on the NFL is a billion-dollar industry would be a gross understatement. The same goes for betting on college football. According to Market Watch, more than $20 billion was bet on football during the 2021 calendar year. The NFL alone, then, is worth billions in potential gambling revenue.
Legal Ohio sports betting is obviously missing out on most of the 2022 NFL (and college football) schedule. But rolling out all services on January 1 still allows them to capitalize on NFL playoff betting. Between the divisional rounds, conference championships and Super Bowl, this by itself is expected to rake in nine figures worth of football betting. And given the current tax rate Ohio is set to assess on sportsbooks and casinos, we're talking about millions of dollars in state revenue.
Needless to say, this is why Ohio was so dead set on keeping the January 1 deadline. They are already sitting out the entire 2022 NFL regular season. It is clear they had no intention of sitting out the playoffs, as well.
Legal Ohio Sports Betting Not Without Conditions
In the push to make sure legal Ohio sports betting is ready for the New Year, the state has made some alterations to how it will be implemented.
Originally, they wanted to wait for the entire licensing process to be done. But after facing a surplus of applications and then having to deal with small businesses pushing back against cash-on-hand requirements, Ohio has instead elected for an incomplete sports betting debut.
At present, the state is allowed to license up to 25 mobile operators and 4o retail sportsbooks under the current law. However, they're reportedly looking at 850 total applications across the board, according to Casino.org. While they are expected to finish their approval process in time, the expectation is that more than a handful of businesses awarded licenses won't be ready to launch on Jan. 1. In particular, Ohio is bracing for a delay from those approved for sports betting kiosks.
"One segment that Matt Schuler, the executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, is expecting more applications is the kiosk host category," Casino.org's Steve Bittenbender wrote. "Presently, the OCCC has received 235 applications from aspiring hosts. However, the Ohio Lottery Commission has pre-qualified more than 1,000 potential applicants. He estimated there might be as many as 2,000 bars and other establishments applying to host kiosks."
This overflow—and the delays that come with it—will impact anyone hoping to place bets immediately at small businesses such as bars. It may also limit which sporting venues are able to accept and pay out wagers, as well.
Fortunately, Ohio will Allow Online Sports Betting
For Ohioans who don't have readied access to a casino and won't be near a sports betting kiosk on January 1 and slightly beyond, we have some good news: You're going to be fine.
Unlike some other states, Ohio is legalizing sports betting in all its forms—including online. So if you can't get to a brick-and-mortar operation, you're free (and highly encouraged!) to choose a reputable site from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. You'll have no trouble at all betting on the NFL or any other sport at these locations.
As for when Ohio's on-site sports betting operations will be fully up and running, we can't be sure. The Ohio Casino Control Commission hasn't yet given a timeline for the kiosk process to wrap up.
Still, that's hardly a harbinger of doom. On the contrary, it's just the opposite. Legal Ohio sports betting isn't just coming. It's here.
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