Jan 4, 2023 - Business

Ohio sports betting officially underway

Illustration of a slot machine featuring a basketball, baseball and football, ending in three dollar signs.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Pete Rose's bets on the Cincinnati Reds in the 1980s got him banned from baseball. His latest on Sunday got him the VIP treatment.

State of play: Ohio's long-awaited foray into legal sports betting launched as the clock struck midnight to ring in the new year.

  • Rose placed the first bet at the Hard Rock Casino in Cincinnati, helping kick off a rush of wagering in casinos, restaurants, bars and around two dozen flashy apps.

The big picture: We join a majority of states that have legalized sports betting since the federal ban was overturned in 2018.

  • Legalization has become a domino effect as states chase what has been an eye-popping tax revenue stream.

How it works: The bulk of statewide wagers will be placed on one of 25 online apps, most of which are already up and running.

  • There's also retail betting at casinos, some sports arenas and at licensed restaurants and bars.

What they're saying: Ohio is unique in licensing so many phone apps and for allowing betting kiosks at local businesses, Covers.com analyst Geoff Zochodne tells Axios.

  • Ohio had the benefit of observing other states' programs in developing its own rules and services, he says.

Meanwhile, operators spent the past year flooding Ohioans' TVs and social media feeds with promotional ads.

By the numbers: Ohioans are projected to place more than $8 billion in bets this year, the equivalent of $2 per day by every single resident.

  • Ohio taxes most operators at 10% of their net revenue, with proceeds going toward K-12 education and gambling addiction services.

The intrigue: Last weekend's College Football Playoff semifinal had the potential to go past midnight, potentially unlocking live betting on the Buckeyes for its exciting conclusion.

  • The heart-wrenching missed kick wound up hitting the turf at the exact second the calendar flipped to 2023.

😬 The bottom line: As sports fans well know, it wasn't the first crashing wave of athletic disappointment and surely won't be the last.

  • The only difference? Next time, Ohioans will have (legal) money on the line.

👋 Tyler here. Shortly after the ball dropped — in both Times Square and at the Peach Bowl — I placed one of the first legal bets in Ohio.

  • The promotional "freebie" bet on an app made me a winner if a single yard was gained in the next day's Browns game.

Before the night ended, I also went to Hollywood Casino Columbus to check out the brand new kiosks, where I placed a small bet on the upcoming title game.

Reality check: I'm a huge sports nut, but an amateur bettor. I plan on wagering for fun, not profit.

  • Here's some advice if you want to responsibly jump in the water.

Shop around: "It's a bit of a buyer's market," Zochodne says of the plentiful in-person and online options.

  • Each is competing for your loyalty by offering an array of promotions and bonus bets, so take your time searching around.

Read those bonuses carefully: These vary widely by sportsbook. Some immediately offer free bonus money to bet with, while others require a deposit to unlock various rewards.

  • Be wary of the word "free," however. You typically can't withdraw or pocket this bonus money without wagering it several times first.

Never wager what you can't afford to lose: This is an important axiom in all forms of gambling, but especially so for a shiny, new betting opportunity on popular sports teams and leagues.


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