When legal sports betting goes live in Ohio on Jan. 1, 2023, it will coincide with among the busiest 48 hours of sports of the year — a full slate of NFL games followed the next day by four college football bowl games and the Cincinnati Bengals vs. the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. So it’s no wonder that operators in the state want to launch as far ahead of that first kickoff as possible.
To that end, some sportsbooks are planning 12:01 a.m. launch events at retail locations and on digital platforms.
Betfred on Wednesday became the latest sportsbook to announce that it will go live on Jan. 1, joining Hard Rock and JACK Entertainment, both of which have publicly announced plans for New Year’s Eve parties at their brick-and-mortar properties as well as digital launches at 12:01 a.m. Betfred is partnered with the Bengals for digital wagering, but won’t have a retail location.
The Ohio Casino Control Commission so far has approved 22 digital operators and 21 brick-and-mortar sportsbooks go to live on New Year’s Day, though not all will do so. Fanatics and Underdog Sportsbook — neither of which is live anywhere in the U.S. — have indicated they won’t launch on New Year’s Day, and since submitting mobile management service provider applications, both Fubo Sportsbook and MaximBet have shuttered operations.
Fubo was partnered with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a digital platform, while MaximBet was approved to take the JACK Cleveland Casino’s second digital skin. Neither company has announced a new partner.
How many will launch New Year’s Day?
As of Thursday — one month ahead of the long-awaited launch date — it appears that the maximum number of digital platforms that could go live is 18, and that group will include most if not all of the major players in the sports betting landscape, including Barstool Sportsbook, BetMGM, BetRivers, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, and WynnBET, as well as a bevy of other players with smaller U.S. footprints such as bet365, Betfred, SuperBook, and Tipico.
RING IN THE NEW YEAR W/ US & GET READY FOR LEGAL SPORTS BETTING IN #OHIO DAY 1 IN 2023!
— Betfred Sportsbook (@BetfredSports) November 30, 2022
It’s possible that more operators could be approved at the OCCC’s Dec. 14 meeting.
On the retail side, the commission confirmed to Sports Handle that sportsbooks at the four casinos it oversees — Hard Rock Cincinnati, Hollywood Casino Columbus, Hollywood Casino Toledo, and JACK Cleveland — have plans to open on New Year’s Day. There are 17 other retail locations that have been approved to operate, including six at horse racetracks and seven at professional sports venues.
Barstool Sportsbook (Hollywood Casino Mahoning Valley), betJACK (JACK Casino Thistledown), BetMGM (MGM Northfield), Caesars Sportsbook (Scioto Downs), and FanDuel (Belterra Park) are partnered with licensed racetracks, while Miami Valley Racing and Gaming has been approved for a retail sportsbook, but has not yet announced a partner. BetMGM has plans for a second brick-and-mortar location at the Cedar Downs OTB, but the location is not yet licensed for wagering.
Ohio is one of five states so far to have legalized wagering at professional sports venues. To date, there is live wagering at pro stadiums and ballparks in Arizona and Washington, D.C., with betting to come at pro venues in Illinois and Maryland. In Kansas, there is a retail sportsbook at Hollywood Casino at Kansas Raceway, and Sporting KC may get in the game through a partnership, but professional venues are not explicitly named in the state’s law.
In Ohio, it’s not clear when wagering at professional stadiums will begin, but everywhere from the state’s NFL stadiums to Muirfield Village Golf Club to the Pro Football Hall of Fame are eligible to be licensed.
As the OCCC and operators move forward, Friday marks a critical date in the timeline. Operators are required to have had all their equipment approved by an independent testing source and ready to start the OCCC verification process. As part of the process, OCCC staff will, according to a spokesperson, “make sure that the equipment that will be in use is the same as the equipment that was tested.”
Here’s what you’ll be able to bet on
The commission released its bet menu in October and revealed that it will allow wagering on 20 sports ranging from Australian Rules Football to Major League Baseball to esports. A total of 84 governing bodies have been approved for wagering, and Ohio is one of a handful of states that will allow for wagering on esports. The commission approved 10 different esports governing bodies for betting. The only sport with more governing bodies approved is soccer with 13.
Unlike in other states where bet menus listing each individual bet are published, the OCCC instead posted parameters for what is legal to wager on that should cover most of the standard kinds of bets — over/unders, moneyline bets, and the like, as well as a list of “specifically approved” wagers that includes betting on many season-end awards in Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NFL, the NHL, and the WNBA. No season-end awards for college sports are on the list, which means that betting on, for example, the Heisman Trophy winner, is not currently legal.