As Ohio nears a New Year’s Day launch of legal sports betting, state regulators have faced a heavy lift in processing more than a thousand licensees in a short span of a few months.
Unlike many states that have rolled out sports betting, Ohio has created a separate licensing class for bars and taverns that wish to offer wagering through a self-service kiosk. The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) initially pre-approved nearly 1,500 locations as “Type-C Sports Gaming Hosts” over the summer before granting licensure to approximately 1,000 as the official launch date nears. The pre-approval list includes spots such as the Winking Lizard Tavern in Akron, JD’s Honky Tonk & Emporium in Cincinnati, and Knuckleheads Bar & Grille in Cleveland.
Ohio sportsbook pre-registration offers
The additional licensing class has presented the OCCC with thousands of pages of extra paperwork to process ahead of the universal start date. Speaking at the 2022 National Council of Legislators From Gaming States (NCLGS) Winter Meeting this month, OCCC Chair June Taylor lauded her staff for their expediency in streamlining an onerous process.
“I’m very proud of our staff. I’m pleased not only at their approach, but I think they have really done yeoman’s work in being available at any time,” she told Sports Handle. “We have tried to leave no operator behind.”
Heavy hitters lining up to enter Ohio
As of Dec. 1, the OCCC had approved 22 digital sports betting operators for licensure, a list highlighted by the nation’s top three online sports wagering companies in FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM. Fewer than 20 will debut in Ohio on New Year’s Day, as two approved licensees, Fubo Sportsbook and MaximBet, have since ceased sports betting operations. It is also unlikely that two others, Fanatics and Underdog Sportsbook, will debut in the Buckeye State on Jan. 1.
Taylor, whose term expires in February, demurred when asked to give her prediction on the number of operators that could launch on Jan. 1.
“On my side it’s all about making sure that they are prepared to go live when the gun goes off on Jan. 1,” she added. “If it’s 20, if it’s 25, if it’s five, we just want to make sure that we’re ready.”
To apply for a Type-C Sports Gaming Host License, the applicant must meet all of the following eligibility criteria:
• Hold a valid D-1, D-2, or D-5 liquor permit under Chapter 4303. of the Revised Code;
• Hold a valid lottery sales agent license under Chapter 3770. of the Revised Code;
• Have a written recommendation from the Ohio Lottery Commission to be issued a Type C Sports Gaming Host License;
• Is in good standing with the Lottery’s rules and regulations;
• Is a for-profit corporation or association (cannot be not-for profit);
• Is compliant with the requirements of Chapters 3772. and 3775. of the Revised Code and the rules adopted thereunder.
— OCCC Type-C Sports Gaming Host licensing eligibility criteria
Bill Coley, a former Ohio state senator and former NCLGS president, echoed Taylor’s sentiments on the efficiency demonstrated by the OCCC.
“I think it’s so great because they wanted a level playing field for everybody,” Coley told Sports Handle. “They are great people and they are dedicated to good public policy. I think everybody in Ohio should be proud of them.”
OCCC won’t bend to Ohio State schedule
There had been some speculation at the conference that the OCCC could move the start date to accommodate bettors for the College Football Playoff national semifinal between No. 1 Georgia and No. 4 Ohio State. The Peach Bowl matchup is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 31, presenting a small chance that Ohioans could place in-game wagers if the game goes into overtime.
Ultimately, the OCCC opted to leave the universal start date unchanged.
The Peach Bowl has some pull, but the New Year's Eve shotgun launch of legal sports betting in Ohio will be staying put.
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) December 13, 2022
There are more than 11.7 million residents in Ohio, according to 2021 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. That ranks Ohio fourth among legal sports betting states in population, trailing only New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.