A multifaceted rollout that includes sports wagering kiosks at hundreds of retail locations means Ohio’s sports betting market will not go live until the latest legally possible date of January 1, 2023, regulators confirmed on Wednesday.
As expected, the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) confirmed at its monthly meeting that legal sports wagering will begin on the latest permissible launch date that was set by lawmakers via House Bill 29 enacted in December.
In a statement, the commission said the January 1 launch date “was chosen to give all stakeholders time to start offering sports gaming on the same date - including businesses looking to offer online and brick-and-mortar sports gaming, as well as kiosks in bars and taverns across Ohio.
“Leading up to the universal start date, prospective licensees will be completing buildings, distributing kiosks, hiring and training employees, obtaining partners, and making all other necessary arrangements to begin offering sports gaming from the same starting line,” the OCCC added.
“The Commission is aware that some stakeholders, specifically many online operators, have fewer preparations to make leading up to launch and could start sooner. However, pursuant to HB 29, all forms of sports gaming must have the opportunity to launch on the exact same date.”
The 2023 launch means Ohio will take slightly longer than the U.S. average of around nine months to go from passing a sports-betting law to launching its market.
However, other states with similarly expansive laws, such as Illinois or Louisiana, have been able to stagger their launches so that casinos or online platforms would not have to wait for other entities.
Ohio’s law will allow in-person sports betting at the state’s casinos, racinos and major sports arenas that host pro sports teams, PGA Tour golf tournaments or NASCAR races.
Casinos and arena-owners can also apply for separate licenses to deploy online sportsbooks, either through their own platforms or via a designated market-access partner. They can also apply to launch a second skin, but only if that would not prevent other operators from launching a primary skin and can demonstrate that a second platform would provide an incremental economic benefit through tax revenue, employment or investment.
At least five additional Type A online licenses will also be available, along with 20 Type B licenses for retail sportsbooks beyond casinos and sports arenas, subject to geographic restrictions.
Meanwhile, the OCCC is required to license at least two but up to 20 so-called Type C operators that will manage a network of kiosks offering limited sports betting at bars and other retail locations.
The retail venues hosting the kiosks must themselves be licensed.
In its statement, the commission said the January 1 rollout of sports betting would “represent the largest expansion of gaming in Ohio’s history and the largest ever simultaneous launch of sports gaming in the United States.”
“According to industry estimates, this will necessitate detailed due diligence investigations, as well as comprehensive compliance examinations, of approximately 3,000 licensees ahead of that date,” the OCCC added.
Licensing Deadlines Looming
Although the market will not go live until 2023, Ohio’s regulatory process is still set to be a fast-moving one over the coming weeks.
In order to be ready for day one, all sportsbook host locations, first-skin operators, platform providers, kiosk operators and all suppliers will have to submit license applications during a month-long window that will open on June 15 and close July 15. Final application forms for the various operators and suppliers were published by the commission on Wednesday.
Between July 15 and August 15, license applications will be due from any second-skin online operators and from host locations for wagering kiosks.
All operators will then have to submit their proposed responsible gaming plans, house rules, geolocation and other procedures for review by the commission no later than November 2 – the same day that applications will be due from all sports betting employees.
All sports betting equipment must then be ready for inspection no later than December 2, according to the commission’s updated implementation timeline.
In the meantime, final regulations governing sports betting also need to be finalized and adopted.
After a series of consultations with the industry, the OCCC last month completed a set of draft regulations; however, the rules are still subject to change during a more formal state consultation process that is not expected to conclude until late summer, at the earliest.
The January 2023 go-live date means Ohio is likely to be lapped by Kansas, which legalized sports betting last month but is expected to launch before the end of year. Maine also enacted legislation in May but is not anticipated to go live until later in 2023.
Ohio’s sports-betting market is estimated to be worth up to $428m in 2023, before rising to $769m in its fourth full-year of operations in 2026, according to VIXIO GamblingCompliance’s updated U.S. Sports Betting & iGaming Data Dashboard.