Ohio Sportsbook Launch List Could Come Midweek

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Jessica Franks knows Ohio sports bettors are ready for the state’s sportsbook launch on Jan. 1.  What she doesn’t know is how many sportsbooks will go live that day. 

State regulators are still doing operational checks to make sure that the state’s 22 conditionally approved in-person and 22 conditionally approved mobile sports betting licensees are ready for launch on New Year’s Day, the communications director for the Ohio Casino Control Commission told Gaming Today on Friday.

By the middle of this week, Franks said she hopes to have at least a partial list of licensees that will launch retail and mobile sportsbooks in Ohio on Jan. 1.  She expects that list to include “entities that have met all the requirements for both compliance and operations and, if they so choose, will be able to launch on Jan. 1.” 

“It is likely that I will add to it as we get closer to Jan. 1,” she added.

Casinos, pro sports stadiums, golf courses, racetracks, OTBs, and more are all gearing up to launch retail and/or mobile sportsbooks on Jan. 1 or thereafter depending on final regulatory approval. All but one of Ohio’s pro franchises – the Cincinnati Bengals – are conditionally licensed for both retail and mobile sports betting, pending final approval. 

The Bengals have partnered with Betfred to launch a mobile sportsbook in the Buckeye State. The franchise has not applied for a retail sportsbook license. 

ohio sportsbook launch, bengals
Cincinnati Bengals fans will legally be able to bet on their team in Ohio as of New Year’s Day (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Up to 25 mobile sports betting licenses are allowed under Ohio’s 2021 sports betting law, with addional licenses possible later depending on market need. A maximum of 40 retail sportsbook licenses are available under the law. 

Pete Rose, PlayUp Interactive, and More

Technically, none of Ohio’s conditionally approved retail and mobile licenses will be final until sports betting is live, said Franks. Conditional approval allows licensees to get their equipment in place, pay all fees, obtain surety bonds, and meet other requirements necessary for them to launch.

“Legally, sports gaming in Ohio does not begin until January 1. When the commission approved those licenses, they were conditional on the appropriate entity meeting several conditions for their licensure,” said Franks. 

Some locations – like Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati, which announced weeks ago its plans to have former Reds manager and controversial sports figure Pete Rose place the casino’s first bet on Jan. 1 – do plan to go live on New Year’s Day, pending final approval of the OCCC. But not every licensee plans to go live on the universal launch date. Some may choose to launch later. Or there may be regulatory issues at play. 

Last week the OCCC announced its intention to deny PlayUp Interactive’s application to be licensed as a mobile service provider in Ohio. According to the news site Cleveland.com, state regulators with the OCCC “found evidence that PlayUp had accepted illegal bets from people in the U.S., which would disqualify them from accepting sports bets in Ohio.” 

PlayUp has requested an administrative hearing on the matter, but that hearing won’t happen before Jan. 1, said Franks.

“This could take several months to fully play out,” she said. 

Franks said none of this affects the licensure of PlayUp’s previously announced mobile partner JACK Cleveland Casino, which is conditionally approved for both a mobile and retail sports betting license. The casino is on track to launch a retail sportsbook under the betJACK brand in the new year. 

Barstool Still Prepped For Launch Jan. 1

Regulatory issues surrounding alleged responsible gaming violations by Barstool Sports (Penn Sports Interactive) were also raised by the OCCC last week. But those allegations will not delay the launch plans of Barstool or its gaming partners, said Franks.

Barstool is partnered for retail and mobile sports betting with Hollywood Casino Columbus. It is the retail-only partner for Hollywood Gaming Dayton Raceway, Hollywood Casino Toledo, and Hollywood Gaming Mahoning Valley. 

“We have issued a notice to Penn Sports Interactive, which does business as Barstool, that we intend to take administrative action against them – but that will not impact their license,” she said. 

The OCCC last week notified Penn Entertainment – part owner of Barstool Sportsbook –  that it intends to fine the company at least $250,000 for actions tied to Barstool’s live tailgate event near the University of Toledo football stadium on Nov. 15. State regulators allege that Barstool broke responsible gaming rules by advertising near a college campus and marketing to persons under age 21 – the legal age for sports bettors under Ohio’s sports betting law.

“We have long told all of our applicants, licensees, affiliate marketers, that they needed to comply with our rules on advertising, even before they were finalized,” Franks told Gaming Today on Friday. “They knew what the rules were.” 

Over 1,000 Sports Betting Kiosk Locations Licensed Ahead of Jan. 1

Starting Jan. 1, Ohio law also allows sports betting on sports wagering kiosks at Ohio Lottery retailers. Gas stations, grocery stores, truck stops, bars, restaurants, and bowling alleys are among 1,499 kiosk locations that have been pre-approved to offer sports betting in the new year. Over 1,000 of those have been licensed so far by the OCCC. 

Up to two kiosks (possibly more with OCCC approval) are allowed per host location, with each kiosk programmed to accept no more than $700 in wagers per individual per calendar week. Only our kinds of sports bets will be accepted by kiosk: spread, over-under, moneyline, and parlay wagers based on up to four component wagers. 

And, like all other sports betting in Ohio, no one under the age of 21 will be allowed to legally place a bet. 

Kiosks at lottery retailers will be regulated by the Ohio Lottery. But Franks clarified that protections against underage betting will be strictly enforced by the OCCC, too. 

“(Licensees) have to let us know what their procedures and policies are – how they’re going to ensure that only those who are over the age of 21 are placing wagers,” said Franks. “There’s a lot of security and surveillance.”

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Writer and Contributor
Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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