Will Ohio sports gambling start in time for NFL season? Probably, industry expert says

Exactly when Ohioans will be able to make a legal sports bet in the state remains unknown, but an industry expert says it’s possible it’s just a few months away.

Ohio’s legislatures passed a sports betting bill in December and Gov. Mike DeWine signed it on Dec. 22. Sports betting must start by Jan. 1, 2023, according to the bill, but there is room for it to start before then.

Daniel Wallach, who owns a sports gaming-focused law firm, has monitored states across the country that have implemented sports gambling in recent years and he said the Ohio Casino Control Commission has worked efficiently to implement it in the state. He said it is too early to make any definitive predictions for when sports betting will start in Ohio, but said based on what’s happened already it could be soon.

“I think they are looking pretty good for near the beginning of the NFL regular season,” Wallach said.

An Ohio Casino Control Commission spokesperson said the January deadline was carefully chosen to give the commission enough time to write and approve rules and for it to review and conduct suitability investigations on the companies that apply for licenses. The commission has released five batches of rules which cover multiple aspects of sports gaming including general provisions and licensing.

The commission cannot accept licenses applications until the rules are in place and those rules are now currently being reviewed by separate agencies to ensure they meet state law. Also, the sports betting bill that was passed calls for a universal start date, the spokesperson said, meaning all proprietors will start offering sports gambling at the same time.

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.

State Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg pushed for legalized sports gambling in Ohio and said that he thinks the commission has worked well toward getting sports betting up and running here.

“I absolutely believe they will meet the legal deadline of Jan. 1, 2023, and I am optimistic that it could come before that,” Antani said.

He said it might be too optimistic to predict that sports betting will be legal in Ohio by week one of the NFL season, but did say that NFL bets in 2022 are possible. He noted that the commission did a lot before the bill officially became law earlier this year.

“They couldn’t make any legal decisions, but they were able to at least do some prep work prior to it going into law that will save a lot of time,” he said.

Wallach said some other states tried to launch their sports gambling around football season.

“Ohio is competing with (other states) for tax dollars and to keep in-state customers away from out of state sportsbooks and one way to accomplish that is to make as one of the objectives to launch by the beginning of the NFL season because September is going to be the busiest month in the season for sports wagering and I think Ohio will want to capture that,” Wallach said.

He said given the deadline to begin, it is likely for it to start before the start of next year.

“It becomes an issue not of if, but a question of when in the September through year-end time frame when it actually goes live and given the importance of college football, the NFL regular season and then the World Series, along with the beginning of NBA and NHL games, it provides a robust period for sports wagering and I think states would be wise to target that activity,” he said.

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