Despite the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) approving four additional sportsbook operators last week, not all licensees will be ready to launch next month, according to the state’s top gaming regulator.
“Although we are live and the switch goes on, there are some operators who are not yet prepared,” said OCCC chair June Taylor. “We also know that there are between five and seven operators that control about 85 percent of the market. So I think we have to realize what the stats really are.”
The commission earlier this year designated January 1, 2023, as the official start date for retail, lottery-run and mobile sports betting.
Taylor did not say which licensed operators will remain offline on January 1, but when asked about the challenges of Ohio’s universal launch date, she noted that it was one of the largest market openings in United States history.
As things stand, Ohio has dealt with 3,986 license applications.
Under the state’s sports-betting law, there are three categories of licenses, with Type A licenses set aside for mobile sports-betting platforms.
So far, 22 Type A licenses have been conditionally approved, with only Stark Enterprises, a Cleveland-based real estate development company, having its license application listed as submitted but not yet considered by the six-member commission.
The state also provides for a maximum of 40 Type B licenses for retail sports-betting facilities.
Ohio has also licensed seven operators of so-called Type C sports wagering kiosks in licensed bars, restaurants and various other retail locations across the state.
“I look at our commission like an industry consultant,” Taylor said on December 9 during a panel discussion on the casino industry during the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States meeting in Las Vegas.
“So no-one can say they didn’t know and if you don’t understand, our commission makes sure that everyone has hands-on-deck at all times, and in many cases seven days a week. We have essentially been a partner with many of the operators that have wanted to get on board in our state.”
Taylor stressed that, during the application and licensing process, operators were able to walk away knowing the answer to any questions and getting assistance from commission staff when preparing to enter the market.
Delegate Shawn Fluharty, a Democrat from West Virginia, reminded attendees that Ohio will be far from a typical sports-wagering state.
“You can bet everywhere not only on your mobile phone, but you can walk into [a supermarket] and on your way out you are going to make sure you get your sports bet in a kiosk,” he said.
Despite such widespread availability, Taylor said it was “important to remember that behind that kiosk there is an eligibility process that everyone has to go through.”
“That eligibility process is intense,” she added. “Sometimes [it is] invasive, but it is a due diligence process that we pride ourselves on in accomplishing the way it needs to be done. And January 1, we will be live.”
Fluharty noted that Ohio’s neighbor Michigan several years ago legalized both retail and mobile sports betting, as well as internet gaming concurrently.
He asked Taylor when Ohio would move to legalize internet gaming.
“That's to be determined,” Taylor said. “There is a drumbeat there, but it is not as loud as some other states.”