According to multiple stakeholders, the Ohio Casino Control Commission has considered but decided against moving up the Jan. 1 Ohio sports betting go-live date to accommodate the interest in Ohio State’s participation in the Peach Bowl the night before.
The No. 4 Buckeyes play No. 1 Georgia in a College Football Playoff semifinal game likely to draw plenty of betting interest nationally, but it will kick off hours before the scheduled launch of legal betting in Ohio. The OCCC says it will not change the date.
“While the Commission received inquiries regarding a change to the launch of sports gaming, in order to keep the start date universal for those looking to launch as required by law, sports gaming in Ohio will begin on Jan. 1, 2023,” an OCCC representative told Sports Handle via email.
One stakeholder told Sports Handle the idea of moving up the sportsbooks’ start was considered and discarded by the commission, and another said it would be too much for some operators to be ready early.
“There’s not that much money as far as tax revenue but finishing everything, getting everything ready to go, I don’t see any chance of them moving those dates up,” former Ohio State Senator William Coley told Sports Handle last weekend. “There’s so little time to finalize everything. You have to remember all the computer systems, all that kind of stuff has been geared to a midnight on New Year’s Eve launch — to move that up would be a tremendous problem.”
Ohio law requires that the OCCC launch operators no later than Jan. 1, 2023, which will be one day after the CFP semifinals. By starting then, operators will miss wagering on both the Peach Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl, in which No. 2 Michigan will play No. 3 TCU. The commission all along has pointed to Jan. 1 as the group go-live date for both retail and digital wagering, and multiple operators already have plans in place based on that date.
On the retail side, Hard Rock Cincinnati is planning a launch party at which Pete Rose will make its first bet, JACK Entertainment plans to open its Cleveland and Thistledown sportsbooks for betting just after midnight, and MGM Northfield also has plans to take in-person bets just after midnight Jan. 1.
Digital partners for all three — Hard Rock Digital, betJACK, and BetMGM — have plans to launch at 12:01 a.m. They will be among up to 18 platforms authorized to go live at that time, including DraftKings and FanDuel. Of the approved platforms, Fanatics and Underdog Sports have announced they will not go live on Jan. 1.
Also, two platforms that submitted applications — Fubo Sportsbook and MaximBet — have folded their sportsbooks since applying.
Date change would be tough on retail locations
The race to grab market share has been on in Ohio for some time, as online sportsbooks in the state have already started marketing to customers through incentives such as pre-launch deposit matches, “risk-free bets,” and other promotions.
With sports betting making its way to Ohio, @tipico – the official sports betting partner of the Columbus Crew – has an amazing offer just for you!
Make a deposit on Tipico today and Tipico will match it up to $150.
You’ll also receive an exclusive $96 Crew Shop gift card!
— The Crew (@ColumbusCrew) December 9, 2022
A last-minute change, even by a day, could put some operators in a bind, particularly on the retail side. As an example, Hard Rock Cincinnati is building launch plans around appearances from Rose, Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster Marty Brennaman, and NFL Hall of Fame offensive lineman Anthony Munoz
“We heard the rumor,” one Ohio stakeholder told Sports Handle, “and we’re waiting to hear. But I’m not sure all of the operators would be ready, and it was a big piece for the state of Ohio that all of the operators” go live at the same time.
Another source said the idea was floated but abandoned after pushback from some operators.
The OCCC is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning, and it’s possible that more operators, mobile management service providers, and management service providers will be approved for launch.
Operators in Ohio will go live during a busy 48 hours. Jan. 1 contains a full slate of NFL games, and Jan. 2 will be loaded with college football bowl games and a Monday Night Football game in which the Cincinnati Bengals host the Buffalo Bills.
Matt Rybaltowski contributed to this story.