The Buckeye State is one of the most attractive potential legal sports betting markets in the country thanks to its population (11.7 million), voracious sports fans, and the number of pro sports and collegiate athletic teams.
Ohio sports fans and sports bettors are eager to see lawmakers and the governor bring legal sports wagering across the finish line in 2020. Already more than 20 U.S. states and jurisdictions have either expressly authorized or allowed some form of legal wagering after the fall of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. On this page we discuss how Ohio may join the ranks of legal sports betting states, and according to what framework.
Ohio sportsbooks – expected mobile sportsbooks, brick & mortar lounges
|Online Sportsbook Brand(s)*||Physical Casino||Ownership||Location||Online Launch Date|
|FanDuel Sportsbook||Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment Center||Boyd Gaming||Anderson Township||TBD|
|bet365 Sportsbook||Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati||Hard Rock International||Cincinnati||TBD|
|DraftKings Sportsbook||Hollywood Casino Toledo||Penn National Gaming||Toledo||TBD|
|Unibet Sportsbook||Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway||Penn National Gaming||Dayton||TBD|
|PointsBet (speculated)||Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course||Penn National Gaming||Austintown||TBD|
|BetMGM Sportsbook||MGM Northfield Park||MGM International||Northfield||TBD|
|BetRivers Sportsbook||Miami Valley Gaming||Delaware North/Churchill Downs||Turtlecreek Township||TBD|
|William Hill Sportsbook||Scioto Downs Racino||Eldorado Resorts||Columbus||TBD|
|Barstool Sportsbook||Hollywood Casino Columbus||Penn National Gaming||Columbus||TBD|
|JACK-branded with Kambi tech||Jack Cleveland Casino||Jack Entertainment||Cleveland||TBD|
|JACK-branded with Kambi tech||Jack Thistledown Racino||Jack Entertainment||North Randall||TBD|
|theScore Bet||N/A||Penn National Gaming||N/A||TBD|
|FOX Bet||N/A||Penn National Gaming||N/A||TBD|
|*Projected based on existing market access agreements|
Ohio casino/racino properties and ownership
There are four casinos and seven racinos located in Ohio. Under the Ohio General Assembly’s latest legislative proposal, or at least what appears to be the consensus, each property would gain the ability to offer three online brands — also known as “skins” — apiece.
Casino and racino groups have established market access agreements, which permit certain online sportsbooks that do not own a physical property to go live in the state. This comes at a cost, of course, either as an up-front payment or a percentage of revenues, perhaps both. Here’s a rundown on some of those relationships and what kinds/brands of physical sportsbook lounges Ohioans might see across the state.
Hollywood Casino Columbus and Hollywood Casino Toledo (Penn National Gaming)
Penn National Gaming in July 2019 struck a deal with four separate sportsbook operators, which will allow these operators access in certain states, including Ohio. The parties negotiated for priority, keep in mind, so depending on the number of available skins, each sportsbook may not get a seat at the table. DraftKings, PointsBet and the Stars Group (FOX Bet) have higher priority over theScore in Ohio; however, Penn’s own brand, likely Barstool Sportsbook, will have priority over all.
Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati Cincinnati (Hard Rock International)
In 2019, Jack Entertainment sold Jack Casino Cincinnati to Hard Rock International for $745 million. Jack still maintains ownership of two other properties in the state – in Cleveland and North Randall.
Jack Casino Cleveland (Jack Entertainment)
Jack Entertainment partnered with the UK-based risk-management and odds supplier Kambi Sports to power its physical and online sportsbooks. Kambi has been a popular choice for U.S. bookmakers, as it’s also the back end supplier for Rush Street Gaming and Rivers Casino.
Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment Center (Boyd Gaming)
Boyd Gaming has a market access deal with FanDuel Sportsbook, which has worked out quite well for Boyd as FanDuel has gained a dominant market share in every state. Ohioans can expect a physical FanDuel Sportsbook similar to the one at Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey. FanDuel has also outfitted lounges in Iowa, Indiana and Michigan, among the growing list of states.
Scioto Downs Racino (Eldorado Resorts)
Eldorado Resorts took over Caesars Entertainment and after doing so has used William Hill Sportsbook as its leading sportsbook brand. William Hill has some critics for allegedly banning winning bettors, but Will Hill sure knows how to build a first-class sportsbook lounge, with stadium-style seating, huge TV boards, large odds boards, and they also have some of the best-trained ticket writers, who are legitimately educated on sports wagering, which we can’t say for all shops.
MGM Northfield Park (MGM International Resorts)
MGM International Resorts established the ROAR Digital as a joint venture between MGM and GVC Holdings, and they are determined to elevate their online brand BetMGM into the upper echelon of U.S. sportsbooks, alongside current leaders DraftKings and FanDuel. The companies put up a total $200 million at the outset of the partnership, and have injected more capital as the U.S. market has opened up further. MGM has also partnered with Yahoo! Sports to serve as an acquisition engine, cut a deal with Buffalo Wild Wings for marketing purposes, and also is now using actor/entertainer Jamie Foxx to endorse the brand. In other words, they’re all in, and of course, very experienced in sportsbook hospitality through properties in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, where MGM spent $10 million to build out a sportsbook lounge at the Borgata.
Miami Valley Gaming (Churchill Downs/Delaware North)
Churchill Downs (CDI)’s online brand BetAmerica, which is now live online in Indiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It is likely that Miami Valley would turn to IGT to power its physical sportsbook offerings, as IGT and CDI have established a partnership to do the same at Delaware North properties in other states including West Virginia.
Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway (Penn National Gaming)
See above section under “Casinos.”
Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course (Penn National Gaming)
See above section under “Casinos.”
Jack Thistledown Racino (Jack Entertainment)
See above section under “Casinos.” Also note that Jack believes it has established a strong brand recognition in the state, so they’re most likely to use their own name as the brand and Kambi on the back end.
Ohio sports betting legislative proposals
As of September 2020, Ohio sports betting efforts were still a work in progress, though the House and Senate appear closer to an agreement, and lawmakers in both chambers are pointing to legalizing by the end of 2020. Back in late May, the House passed an amended version of one bill, HB 194, which would allow statewide and mobile and retail wagering.
Senator John Eklund, who has been working on sports betting since 2018, told Sports Handle in September that sports betting isn’t a done deal, but that lawmakers appear to have come to an agreement that would allow the Casino Control Commission regulate sports betting. Word is that lawmakers are favoring a framework where each property would be allowed to have three sportsbook skins — or online brands — same as in Indiana and New Jersey, where the market is flourishing. This would allow many more options for sports bettors and encourage competition. Eklund said House leadership had “acquiesced” on the issue, but that the broader House may still need to be educated and/or convinced of why to make the change.
Who would regulate has been the major sticking point, with the House arguing that it should be the Ohio Lottery and the Senate saying it should be the Casino Control Commission. If it were the lottery, as experiences in other jurisdictions have proven, where lotteries have granted monopolies to ostensibly incompetent sportsbook suppliers such as Intralot (as in Montana and Washington, D.C.), sports bettors have just one option and not a good one.
More on the state of legalization
Ohio casinos are technically allowed to offer any form of gaming authorized in either Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, or West Virginia. So it appears that the casinos may be able to offer retail sports wagering, made possible by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May 2018.
All of the aforementioned Ohio neighbors have legal sports betting. The problem for Ohio is that the state has an astronomical 33% tax rate on casino revenue, which would be quite a blow to retail sports betting operations, if the same applied. Books typically hold only 5-8% of the betting handle in the form of revenue.
Ohio customers would be best served with online/mobile sportsbooks if the state levied a lower tax rate, which appears to be in the works. This was the situation in Michigan, as the Detroit casinos could have kicked off retail sports betting as far back as 2018, but with a roughly 20% tax rate and no online/mobile, it just didn’t make business sense for the properties. Ohio’s market potential is similar to Pennsylvania’s, though the Keystone State enacted a 36% effective tax rate that is unfavorable to the industry. With
The current Ohio Senate bill calls for a 6.25% tax and the House bill calls for 10%, so it’s likely lawmakers will land somewhere in the middle, which should be palatable to potential operators.
Ohio is the seventh most populous state in the U.S. at about 11.7 million people, which will make it an extremely desirable venue for sportsbook operators, and a competitive market at that.
How the bills have developed
Ohio lawmakers began the conversation with a pair of bills in 2019, Senate Bill No. 111 and House Bill No. 194. There was some optimism that legislation could clear both chambers in 2020 and reach Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk, but the COVID-19 public health crisis threw a massive wrench in those hopes. Still, with the state looking to generate new revenue streams, especially in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, sports betting legalization could be front and center for debate when the legislature is back in session in the fall.
The bills still diverge greatly. As mentioned above, SB 111 calls for the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) to regulate, while HB 194 would put the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) in charge. It’s a massive discrepancy, as a lottery-run market could permit sports wagering at hundreds of lottery retailers across the state.
The good news is that both bills call for online/mobile sport betting. Online wagering in states where it is permitted has proven to drive over 80% of all sports betting handle — even more in some states such as New Jersey. And of course during the pandemic, many physical sportsbooks were forced to closed.
One issue in Ohio is that certain colleges and universities have sought to exclude their sports from legal wagering. That’s not a big deal in New Jersey, where Rutgers doesn’t quite move the needle at sportsbooks, but it would be a massive blow to Ohio books. That’s expected to be a major topic of debate when public discussions resume.
In the meantime, Ohioans are driving to other states to bet or using offshore and unregulated gambling sites.
Probably no standalone apps
Reading the tea leaves, it appears unlikely that Ohio would allow stand-alone sports wagering apps, which Illinois will permit at a cost of $20 million for a license. Instead, it is likely that any online/mobile sportsbook would likely be tethered to a brick-and-mortar casino or racino. Those properties are discussed in greater detail above and shown in the chart.
Thus, while the legislation isn’t finalized, it appears more likely Ohio would ultimately follow a regulatory structure similar to that of neighboring Indiana and Pennsylvania, rather than a market like casino-less Tennessee. The Volunteer State has had a slew of problems with its lottery crafting regulations.
As mentioned, Ohio imposes a 33% tax on casino gross gaming win, while the racinos pay 33.5% on their winnings from their electronic gaming machines.
The casino tax is used primarily to support county governments, with about half of the state’s tax revenue going to those municipalities. About a third goes to education, while 5% goes to host cities. Leftover monies are used for problem gambling services and administrative expenses. All of the racino tax revenue goes to education.
Ohio casino history
The Buckeye State is a relative newcomer to the casino industry, having only had retail casino gambling since 2012. Ohio voters approved a ballot initiative in 2009 to allow for casinos in four of its major cities. Ohio was part of the regional casino boom that occurred in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which temporarily greatly damaged gaming revenue in Las Vegas. Tourism was hit hard, so the industry lobbied to put casinos across the country.
Casino gambling also allowed states to raise revenues without raising taxes on residents, and Ohio, along with many other states, went that route.
Under Ohio law, the four casinos are regulated by the OCCC, while the racinos are under OLC oversight.
The racinos don’t have live dealer table games, which is the main difference between the facilities.
The first casino to open was Hollywood Casino Toledo in 2012, followed by the other three casinos in the spring of 2013. The first racino also opened in 2012.
The racinos were authorized under an executive order from the governor that allowed video lottery terminals at the racetracks. Ohio has had seven racinos since 2014, and under the legal landscape there isn’t a cap on the number of racinos. There is a cap of four Las Vegas-style casinos.
Sports wagering would not need to be authorized under another ballot question.