Starting today, Ohioans are able to legally bet on sports, creating a potentially billion-dollar industry that could yield tens of millions in tax revenue for Ohio schools.
There are concerns about gambling addiction and some local vendors are having a hard time getting everything set up to go live today. But Ohio businesses hope being able to offer sports betting will be a fun draw for patrons.
Casinos, racetracks, online sportsbooks — even local restaurants and bars — have been preparing for months to meet a wave of demand.
One of those is Hank’s Local Bar+Food+Patio at 2529 Patterson Road in Dayton. But less than a week before the sports-betting launch it was unclear if a sports betting kiosk there would be up and running, or even on site, by Jan. 1.
Hank’s already offers keno and lottery scratch-offs, said Chad Shay, one of the owners. The gaming kiosk will take over the keno and will also offer sports betting and lotto draws, he said.
“We are getting the full-service kiosk,” Shay said.
Hank’s kiosk is coming from Dayton’s Shaffer Amusement, in partnership with Intralot, he said. Intralot is a Greek company that supplies gaming equipment and management.
The kiosk hadn’t arrived as of Dec. 27, though Shay hoped it soon would.
Intralot is involved in supplying kiosks and runs one of the betting platforms on the machines. Intralot informed the Ohio Lottery, which will manage sports betting at small establishments, that its gaming program for kiosks wouldn’t be ready for launch until mid-January, according to a Dec. 23 news release from Danielle Frizzi-Babb, Ohio Lottery communications director.
That doesn’t necessarily mean other non-Intralot betting software will be unavailable on those kiosks, however.
Intralot’s own sportsbook program is called Sportsbet Ohio, and is expected to be available at more than 700 clerk-operated terminals statewide, Frizzi-Babb said.
Who can bet, and on what?
The new Ohio law allows betting on sports by anyone at least 21 years old. Players can bet on professional sports, college sports and esports, including auto racing and golf; but betting on horse races remains confined to established pari-mutuel betting at racetracks.
Players can also bet on international contests such as the Olympics. But according to the Ohio Casino Control Commission, which sets rules for betting, people can’t bet on the actions of coaches or game officials; injuries; actions of fans or performers; coin tosses; game gear; prerecorded events; or any game in which more than half of players are under age 18.
Ohio legislators wrangled for years on whether or how to legalize sports betting. On Dec. 9, 2021, the General Assembly approved it, and Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill Dec. 22.
The legislation authorizes three types of sports gaming licenses:
- Type A licenses allow sports gambling on mobile apps, or “sportsbooks.” Twenty-five such licenses can be issued, with preference given to Ohio’s professional sports teams and existing casinos.
- Type B licenses allow it at up to 40 brick-and-mortar locations — generally places where gambling is already established, such as casinos and racinos. Those are known as “retail sportsbooks.”
- Type C licenses would allow up to two gaming machines in kiosks at some lottery sales locations; and in bars, restaurants and bowling alleys that hold alcohol licenses.
Type A and B licenses are good for five years, but Type C licenses must be renewed after three years. The Casino Control Commission issues all licenses, but directly oversees only types A and B. Type C licenses are managed by the Ohio Lottery.
How to bet at kiosks
All 22 Fricker’s locations in Ohio will have betting kiosks, said April Baker, chief operating officer of the Miamisburg-based chain.
“We will launch on day one,” she said. Fricker’s will encourage guests to download a mobile phone app to place their bets, which will create a QR code. They can use that code to log their bets at Fricker’s bar before games start, Baker said.
Betting allowed under Type C licenses is not quite the same as what’s available at existing casinos and racinos, she said.
At small-business kiosks, such as the ones at Fricker’s locations, people can bet four ways, Baker said:
- Over/under, betting on whether a specific statistic for a game will be high or low.
- Moneyline, a straight bet to predict a game’s winner.
- Spread, betting on a golf-like “handicap” for each team — negative points for the favorite to win and positive points for the underdog.
- Parlay, betting on multiple aspects of a game; providing a greater payout if all those factors are right.
Fricker’s has had an “exceptional relationship” with the Ohio Lottery, and sees sports gaming kiosks as an extra entertainment value, Baker said. The company also started offering the lottery and keno as soon as those were legal for restaurants, she said.
“Our customers have a great time with that,” Baker said.
Sports gaming kiosks seemed like a natural move since Fricker’s offers game viewing for all sports seasons, she said.
“We’re a sports restaurant,” Baker said
The kiosks, provided by 21 Gaming in partnership with Intralot, have already arrived at Fricker’s locations, but the operating software won’t be running until Jan. 1, she said.
Fricker’s kiosks will operate during all hours the locations are open, Baker said.
Some software, such as Intralot’s own betting software, won’t initially be available on the kiosks.
Where and how can people bet?
Many of Ohio’s pro sports teams have been approved to host gambling through sportsbooks, including the Cincinnati Bengals, FC Cincinnati, Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Guardians. So have racetracks including Northfield Park, Scioto Downs, Hollywood Casino Columbus and Belterra Park.
As of Dec. 21, a dozen retail sportsbooks at existing casinos and racinos — including Barstool Sportsbook for Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway — were fully licensed. The casino announced it would start offering sports gambling Jan. 1 through Barstool Sportsbook at wagering counters and kiosks.
Miami Valley Gaming in Turtlecreek Twp. plans to offer sports betting in the racino itself and on the MVGbet online and mobile app.
Also fully licensed are 16 online sportsbooks, including such names as DraftKings and FanDuel, that can start taking bets in the first seconds of Jan. 1. Although people can’t place online bets before then, some sportsbooks are offering up to $200 in free bets to people who sign up early.
As of Dec. 14, the state had conditionally approved licenses for 22 retail sportsbooks and 21 online sportsbooks. More of those Type A and B licenses are likely to be approved in the future, Franks said.
Based on counties’ 2010 population, Montgomery County is eligible for up to three retail sportsbooks, while Butler, Clark, Greene, Miami and Warren are eligible for one each. Hamilton County could have five such retail locations.
For those who have received at least conditional licenses, whether to start taking bets Jan. 1 is a business decision — they’re not required to start then, said Jessica Franks, director of communications for the Casino Control Commission.
Operators have to stick to the types of bets allowed by the commission, but don’t have to offer all of them, she said.
Some of the betting platforms available in kiosks will launch Jan. 1, while others will phase in operations later this year, according to Frizzi-Babb.
More than 1,000 sports betting kiosks are approved to launch on Jan. 1, but not all will operate at launch, according to PlayOhio, a subsidiary of Malta-based Catena Media, which provides marketing services for the gambling industry.
State officials have granted conditional approval to Type C licenses at 123 locations in Montgomery and surrounding counties:
- 34 in Butler County
- 4 in Clark County
- 4 in Darke County
- 15 in Greene County
- 6 in Miami County
- 48 in Montgomery County
- 3 in Preble County
- 9 in Warren County
Those include Kroger stores, which sought five licenses in Butler County, two in Greene, two in Miami and two in Montgomery.
“We are still doing our due diligence for the program,” a Kroger spokesperson said in response to questions. “Earlier this year (2022), Kroger began exploring sports betting in its Ohio stores. We are continuing this process and expect to learn more in summer 2023.”
What’s the financial impact?
The state estimates that sports betting will be a $1.1 billion industry in Ohio in its first year or so of operation, growing to $3.35 billion within a few years.
Ohio could bring in an additional $31 million in tax revenue through June 2024, according to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission. Sports gambling licensing fees in 2022 could add another $32 million, according to PlayOhio.
PlayOhio also projected sports gambling will create more than 700 Ohio jobs, mostly by online sportsbooks. In mid-December the firm predicted that kiosks alone could take $80 million in bets during their first year.
The legislation legalizing sports gambling imposes a 10% tax on those gaming receipts. Of that, 98% will go to fund public and nonpublic education through General Assembly appropriations, with half to be spent on sports and other extracurricular activities.
The remaining 2% will go to programs to combat gambling addiction.
Dealing with problems
According to a PlayOhio survey, nearly four out of five Ohioans who currently gamble plan to bet on sports as well. The group cited a study by Joshua Grubbs, assistant professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University, sponsored by the International Center for Responsible Gaming, which found that men ages 18 to 34, with college degrees and above-average income, are the most likely to bet on sports.
Regular bettors on sports, fantasy sports or esports are more likely to be at moderate to high risk for developing gambling problems, according to the study.
Grubbs said Ohio has good programs to help with gambling addiction, but more people need to be trained to staff them.
In the past year the state and other entities have worked to ramp up advertising and programs to deal with problem gambling, including the voluntary exclusion program that lets people ban themselves from casinos and racinos.
The state’s gambling helpline is available 24/7 at 800-589-9966, or at www.Beforeyoubet.org. For the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, go to www.pgnohio.org.
Questions and hopes
The Casino Control Commission hosted a meeting between kiosk vendors and potential license applicants at a downtown Dayton hotel, one of several meetings in major markets statewide, Shay said. Business owners interested in having sports betting kiosks asked lots of questions — on payouts, how the technology worked, etc. — that vendors couldn’t answer on the spot, but promised to address, he said.
“There’s still a lot of challenges that I think will be involved,” Shay said.
He plays FanDuel fantasy sports himself and looks forward to direct betting on sporting events. Shay thinks the new options will create excitement for games.
Hank’s attracts a “gaming community” and does lots of keno business, he said. He’s noticed a recent downturn in keno play that he attributes to people waiting for the greater variety available on the new kiosk.
“Almost everyone who comes in here is really excited about it,” Shay said.
Hank’s has been in business for 40 years, but only added a kitchen two or three years ago. Many people only know it as a bar with dart games, he said. Shay hopes the sports gaming kiosk will draw new customers for a bet — but that the food will induce them to return and stay.
“I think it’s going to be a really good draw for people,” he said.