Crowded Field For Ohio Sports Betting

July 18, 2022
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Bet365 and Fanatics are among operators bidding to enter Ohio’s coveted sports-betting market as the partner of one of the state’s major sports teams, according to a list of applications published by the Ohio Casino Control Commission on Friday.

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Bet365 and Fanatics are among operators bidding to enter Ohio’s coveted sports betting market as the partner of one of the state’s major sports teams, according to a list of applications published by the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) on Friday (July 15).

Overall, 22 Ohio casinos, sports teams and other local entities had applied for the minimum 25 available “Type A” licenses for mobile sports betting prior to the closing of an initial application window on July 15, the commission said in an updated list published late on Friday evening.

A sports wagering law enacted in December gives preferential treatment to Ohio’s 11 casinos and racinos and nine major league teams and sports facilities both for those licenses and for the 40 available licenses for retail sports betting.

Among the most notable partnerships disclosed by the OCCC on Friday is bet365 apparently aligning with Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians as the team’s designated market-access partner for mobile sports betting.

Fanatics, the sports apparel giant whose plans to enter the sports-betting market have been the subject of so much speculation, will similarly partner with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets for both online wagering and operation of a retail sportsbook at its arena.

The pair will join the likes of Betfred, Tipico, Bally’s, Fubo, Parx, Nevada’s SuperBook and fantasy sports brand Underdog in partnering with an Ohio sports team or facility for mobile market access.

Elsewhere, three of the online skins affiliated with Penn National Gaming’s four casinos and racinos in Ohio will be used by the company’s Barstool Sports, DraftKings and PointsBet.

Flutter’s FanDuel has applied for a mobile sports-betting operator license and will presumably partner with minority owner Boyd Gaming’s Belterra Park racino. PlayUp has applied as the designated mobile sportsbook partner of JACK Entertainment’s Cleveland casino.

Retail Licenses

Friday, July 15 marked a key deadline in Ohio’s sports-betting rollout as only applications for mobile or retail operator licenses received by that date are guaranteed to be considered before market launch on January 1, 2023.

Friday’s updated list of received applications does not represent a definitive list of companies meeting the deadline, however, as filings post-marked July 15 but received later will still be considered, said Jessica Franks, the OCCC’s director of communications.

Operators and suppliers can also apply later if they do not intend to launch on day one of the market.

For retail sports betting, the 24 applications received as of Friday evening for up to 40 so-called “Type B” licenses largely reflect the partnerships for mobile sports betting.

Among the more notable partnerships is BetMGM apparently preparing to operate up to three retail locations in Ohio — at the Cincinnati Red’s Great American Ball Park and at Cedar Downs off-track betting facility, as well as at MGM’s Northfield Park racino.

Fanatics, in turn, is applying to operate a second retail sportsbook location at the home stadium of the Cleveland Guardians.

Caesars is seeking to operate a sportsbook at the home arena of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers in addition to its Scioto Downs racino, while PointsBet will operate retail sports betting at the Harry Buffalo chain of sports bars and restaurants.

According to the OCCC’s application list, at least four companies have also sought one of the maximum of 20 licenses to operate a network of kiosks offering limited sports wagering on behalf of the Ohio Lottery in hundreds of eligible bars, veterans halls and other retail locations.

Those applicants for “Type C” licenses include the Ohio Lottery’s primary technology partner Intralot, Elys Game Technology and two lesser-known companies in Green Bear Gaming Development and Skybox Sports Network.

Retail establishments planning to host the kiosks now have until August 15 to step forward during the OCCC’s second licensing window that opened on Friday for host locations and any mobile sportsbook operators applying as the second-skin of a casino or sports team.

Under state law, a second skin will only be permitted if there is a demonstrated economic benefit to the state and if the skin would not deny an Ohio team or gaming operator a primary market-access partner.

Advertising In Focus

As license applications are duly reviewed, operators face a series of other deadlines in the rush to be ready to go on January 1.

By November 2, mobile and retail operators will have to submit their responsible gaming plans, house rules, geolocation and other procedures for review by the OCCC, according to an implementation timeline published by the agency.

Those documents will all be submitted through an online compliance portal being launched by the commission, Andromeda Morrison, the agency’s general counsel, said at last month’s International Association of Gaming Advisors (IAGA) summit in Boston.

All sports-betting equipment also must be available for commission inspection and approval no later than December 2.

In the meantime, the OCCC’s detailed draft regulations still have to be adopted following completion of a formal public consultation process.

Ohio’s would-be operators are being permitted by the OCCC to advertise in the state in advance of receiving their licenses and the January 1 launch date.

However, applicants are expected to proactively abide by pending regulations that will include appropriate disclosures in promotions, a ban on depicting under-21s in ads or marketing at college campuses, plus a requirement that advertising does not “promote irresponsible or excessive participation in sports gaming.”

Companies could be at risk of disqualification from licensure if they violate the forthcoming marketing rules, a prospect which appears to be an area of active concern for the regulator.

“We have seen some folks stray a little close to that line, or a little over that line,” Morrison told IAGA summit delegates.

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