Ohio Regulators Not Expecting To Max Out Sports-Betting Licenses

March 18, 2022
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Despite a plethora of opportunities for sports-betting operators to gain access to the lucrative Ohio market, gaming regulators expect the Buckeye State to ultimately follow in line with established U.S. jurisdictions.

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Despite a plethora of opportunities for sports-betting operators to gain access to the lucrative Ohio market, gaming regulators expect the Buckeye State to ultimately follow in line with established U.S. jurisdictions.

Although the law passed in December legalizing sports betting could potentially allow for 50 mobile operators in addition to 40 land-based operators and a limited retail program that could include an uncapped number of retailers, state regulators do not expect Ohio to approach those high numbers.

“I don't believe that we will see anything like that in the state of Ohio,” Matt Schuler, executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC), said during a presentation to the commission this week.

“We've looked at states that have 20, or maybe a little bit more than 20 sportsbooks, typically five or six sportsbooks consume about 90 percent of the market, and it's the same ones generally, in every single state,” Schuler said.

“And so the rest of the sportsbooks are usually trying to get some fraction of a percent.”

The Ohio law allows for 25 “Type A” mobile licenses to be awarded to entities that include professional sports teams, casinos and racinos, with each licensee being permitted to apply for a second mobile skin if they can demonstrate that a second skin would generate “an incremental economic benefit.”

“I don't know why Ohio would be different, so while there’s a lot of demand, it will be interesting to see if the market determines that will hold, given those dynamics happening in state after state with the same companies and largely the same market share,” Schuler said.

When it comes to the “Type B” land-based licenses, one issue Schuler said the commission is still wrestling with is how to meet the law’s requirement that land-based licenses shall only go to companies who conduct “significant economic activity” in the county where the licensed facility would be located.

“I know you’re saying how in the world are we going to figure out what significant economic development is; yes, I’m still wondering that,” Schuler said, adding that the law calls for the commission to consult with the Ohio Department of Development to reach that conclusion.

“And so we have been in communication with the Department of Development, so that they're very cognizant that we're going to need their expertise.”

Among the entities to have expressed an interest in the Ohio sports-betting market is the pro football Hall of Fame Village, which has announced partnerships with Rush Street Interactive to operate a retail sportsbook and with Genesis Global as a market-access partner for mobile.

“Staff will be able to work really closely with applicants and a holistic approach, as we take a look at those different proprietors, especially for those type B's where we have to hit that significant threshold,” added William Cox, deputy general counsel for the commission.

“It's going to be things like employment, it's going to be capital investment, contributions to tourism, and things like that, that we're going to be looking at, generally speaking for the Type A, Type B, and Type C proprietors just to see whether they can get a license in the first place,” he added.

“And then specifically, as we look at those Type B's, we're then going to need to look at what that threshold is for significant."

Ohio’s rulemaking and licensing process is expected to take much of 2022, with a required start date no later than January 1, 2023 set by the statute, and a stated preference from the commission for a uniform kick-off for all participants rather than a staggered start when individual operators are ready to launch.

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