Bumpy Launch for Ohio Sports Betting

January 1 brought the launch of sports betting in Ohio, and overall it was a success, despite the usual glitches most sportsbooks experience. Crowds were robust. Governor DeWine warned operators that the “glitches” must end immediately as the state handed out some hefty fines.

With the change of the calendar from December 31 to January 1, the much-anticipated sports betting industry in Ohio has begun. Will there be a learning curve for operators and bettors? Bet on it. No matter—it’s here, learning curves and all.

Entain and MGM Resorts’ BetMGM opened at the Great American Ballpark in concert with the Cincinnati Reds. Ironically, baseball legend Pete Rose, who is banned from the sport for gambling, was on hand to make the first bet.

SuperBook launched its seventh market in conjunction with soccer club FC Cincinnati. Betr brought its micro betting app to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village.

So far, the state has licensed 20 mobile operators and nine retail ones, plus around 200 businesses for kiosks.

Meanwhile, the launch also attracted large crowds at Cleveland area sportsbooks. Parking lots at MGM Northfield Park and Jack Casino in downtown Cleveland were packed, according to Cleveland.com. Sports fans were ready when the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve.

Casinos in Ohio see sports betting as a way to tap new customers, especially on Sunday afternoons.

“We already have such fervent sports fans in Cleveland,” said one spokesperson for the Jack. “This is just another way to get them to be part of the game.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Scott Lokke, senior vice president and general manager at Jack. ”Gone are the days of you bet on wins and losses,” he said. “There are all these in-game bets now and it’s completely changed the industry. Fan engagement increases significantly. They are constantly in tune.”

All provided options for bar and food service, a variety of comfortable seating at tables and bars—and in the case of Jack and MGM—large theater-style seats. And, of course, walls covered with video screens.

Jack’s downtown offers table play in the sportsbook area so people can play at the tables and still watch the games they’ve bet on. MGM keeps the emphasis on sports. The Caesars Sportsbook has an upscale sports pub vibe. No slots and no table games, but the bar spans two levels.

Regardless of the venue, bets can be taken through a mobile sportsbook app, at self-bet kiosks or face-to-face with cash and an actual human.

Among customers surveyed, the most popular type of bet appeared to be the parlay, which offers several different wagers on one card. The odds are much higher and the potential win greater.

“It’s great because it didn’t really cost that much,” said Mike Racatl of Akron. He put down $40 on a parlay bet that will bring in $500 if he wins.

Mitchell Allen, proprietor of Zeno’s in Columbus, has kiosks in-house so patrons can place live bets.

“Sports betting is huge right now,” said Allen, who waited more than a year for this moment, according to WCMH. “Having the availability for us to make some money off it will be great for business. I think it will add another way for people to have fun in the bar and enjoy games they wouldn’t necessarily watch. I’m kind of learning on the go right now.”

Customers can wager as much as $700 each week through these businesses.

Donerick’s Pub will have kiosks in all of its locations. General Manager Marianne Lausch said their owner and managers took classes to minimize mistakes.

“Basically when you come up you will have the option to do your sports betting from here. You will still be able to do your keno and your Ohio Lottery, but you’ll be able to do everything from one stop,” Lausch said.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine doesn’t oppose sports betting. If he did, he would not have signed the enabling legislation in 2021. The one thing he asks in return is to follow the rules. In less than a week into sports betting, already there have been instances where the operators crossed the line.

He shared his sentiments with the executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC), along with a number of commission members.

“The companies that are doing the massive advertising need to be aware that they’re being looked at very closely by the governor and the Casino Control Commission in regard to statements that they are making,” DeWine said. “We believe that at least on several occasions they’ve already crossed the line,” he added without elaboration. “My message to them is that this will not be tolerated in the State of Ohio.”

The commission recommended a $350,000 fine against DraftKings for mailing to those under 21. State regulators said on Friday that the company mailed some 2,500 advertisements to people under 21, according to Cleveland.com.

Barstool Sportsbook violated the prohibition against holding an event on a college campus, in this case the University of Toledo.

DeWine also mentioned promotions operators are offering to lure customers, and those offering free betting credits.

“That’s a pretty clear line they cannot cross,” DeWine said. ”I also think they must be very careful, candidly, in regard to the claim of ‘free money and free gaming.’ When you look at the fine print, or try to figure out what it really means, it doesn’t mean what certainly is being implied by the TV advertising.”

DraftKings has a right to a hearing after which the commission will vote on any action.

“The Commission has been very clear about the rules and standards for sports gaming advertising with the industry and are disappointed with the lack of compliance we have seen despite reminders,” said Matthew Schuler, executive director of the OCCC, in a press release. “While we do not take administrative action lightly, DraftKings’ conduct in this case warrants the Commission’s intervention to ensure the integrity of sports gaming.”

DraftKings did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Covers.