Ohio Running Two-Minute Drill To Launch Legal Betting Before NFL Season

Ohio Running Two-Minute Drill To Launch Legal Betting Before NFL Season

The good news: sports betting is now legal in the state of Ohio and its population of 12 million.

The bad news: there's still no official set-up to actually betting on sports. That won't last long, however.

At the tail end of 2021, the Ohio Legislature passed HB 29 to legalize and regulate the practice. HB 29 covers gambling anywhere and everywhere inside the state — brick-and-mortar facilities, terminals in bars and restaurants, and most of all, on the Internet. With Ohio's inclusion, more than one-half of the USA now has legal sports betting in some capacity. Here's what you need to know about what happens next for would-be bettors in the Buckeye State:

When Will Ohio Start Taking Sports Bets?

Ah, yes, the million-dollar question — and that's no hyperbole. As part of the wording in HB 29, doors for betting will be opened no later than January 1, 2023. That's the worst-case scenario, but it's in the lawmakers' best interest to get the betting structures in place long before that. 

That's because the NFL regular season begins on September 8 — and that's the big money-making sport, for not just the state of Ohio, but the entire country. The potential opportunity cost of missing out on the NFL season, even for weeks at a time, is no small penny.

That number is boosted by the state having two local teams — the Cleveland Browns and the Super Bowl runner-ups, Cincinnati Bengals. That would equate to losses of $7 million for the state on a week-to-week basis.

What's The Hold Up For Ohio Sports Betting?

Surely, Ohio brass doesn't want to miss out on the revenue windfall that is NFL betting, but at the same time, setting up a betting structure from scratch takes time — and it's the biggest hurdle in legalizing Ohio sports betting for good

The most painstaking process is vetting the license-holders that'll be allowed to take in bets. The law creates three types of gaming licenses — for mobile apps, brick-and-mortar stores, and kiosks at lottery retail agents — that last for five years and goes into effect on January 1. The state plans to issue at least 25 licenses for mobile apps, plus another 40 for brick-and-mortar establishments such as casinos and pro sports venues. Licenses for kiosks, to be placed at bars, restaurants, and other places selling liquor, will be even more vast.

As you can tell, that's a whole lot of licenses to go out, hence the hold up in going live. Delaying matters is that operators have yet to file applications for a betting license. That will remain the case until licensing rules become effective – which is anticipated to happen during the summer or possibly early fall.

Cleveland Browns Ink Deal with Bally’s

As you can tell, sports betting is a matter of if — not when — in the Buckeye State. Therefore, sponsors have already jumped at the chance of cashing in. Take Bally Bet, for example. Before April ended, Bally inked an endorsement deal with the Browns, making them the official sports betting partner of the team, which just landed a franchise-level quarterback over the summer. 

As part of the deal, Bally’s will open a branded sports betting lounge at the FirstEnergy Stadium, the home of the Browns, as well as launch a co-branded mobile sportsbook app that will serve residents of Ohio as soon as the new legislation permits. For Bally's, this will become the 18th state which they have betting access to.

In the same token, Caesars and the Cleveland Cavaliers also struck a sponsorship agreement. Caesars plans to build a retail sportsbook on the street level inside the team’s home court, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The space will be open around-the-clock, not just on game days, and will be accessible to the entire arena. 

Expect similar sponsorships to be signed with other Cleveland-area teams in the months that follow. The big get will obviously be the Ohio State Buckeyes — one of the most premium college entities in the entire country. The Bengals also have a lot of bargaining power coming off its Super Bowl appearance. Other sports teams in the Ohio market include MLB’s Cleveland Guardians (formerly the Indians) and Cincinnati Reds, plus the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Then there are more NCAA properties such as the University of Cincinnati, Kent State, Xavier, and Bowling Green.

Ohio Keeping Pace With Neighboring States

Recent moves by Ohio lawmakers to legalize sports betting have also enabled the Buckeye State to keep pace with neighboring states that jumped on the sports betting craze early. Among those are Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and West Virginia, all of which now offer legal sports betting to various degrees, attracting the business of sports bettors living just across state lines in Ohio.

And while sports betting may be just around the corner, Ohio sports bettors who can't afford to wait (trust us, we don't blame you) can leverage an offshore sportsbook. These betting sites are the real deal and in the table below, we've included reviews of top online sportsbooks Internet-wide.