Axios Columbus

Picture of the Columbus skyline.

Happy Thursday, Columbus!

⛈️ Today's weather: High near 83° with a chance of storms this morning. Clearer skies later in the day.

ğŸŽµ Sounds like: "Viva Las Vegas" by Elvis Presley.

Situational awareness: Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith will retire after the 2023-24 school year, ESPN reports.

  • Smith has led Buckeyes athletics since 2005 — amid the pandemic, a new football playoff structure and the introduction of name, image and likeness marketing rights for student-athletes.

Today's newsletter is 931 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: 🏈 Bets are down, but still big money

Data: Ohio Casino Control Commission and Ohio Lottery Commission; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Ohio Casino Control Commission and Ohio Lottery Commission; Chart: Axios Visuals

Ohio sports betting has declined significantly as an early flood of promotions has given way to a quieter summer without most major sports in action.

Why it matters: The first six months have proven we're a sports betting heavyweight, analysis from industry tracker Covers and state data shows.

  • More money has been wagered here than in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Virginia.

Flashback: Ohio faced a massive undertaking to launch online, retail and lottery kiosk betting at the same time on Jan. 1, says Danny Cross, managing editor of PlayOhio, a website that reports on and advocates for sports betting.

  • There were early bumps in the road as operators were fined for illegally promoting "free bets" and marketing to underage players.

State of play: Since then, "things have gone quite well," Cross tells Axios.

  • Ohioans wagered over $3.8 billion in the first six months of legal betting, earning sportsbooks $539 million in revenue.
  • 10% of that was taxed to benefit K-12 education and problem gambling resources, though lawmakers voted to double that tax rate in the recent state budget.

What he's saying: "Sportsbooks have to be happy with the [betting totals] so far," Cross says.

The intrigue: Bettors vastly prefer placing bets online, with 97% of all money wagered via 18 digital apps.

Zoom in: Fourteen brick-and-mortar sportsbooks inside stadiums and casinos are working to attract gamblers with glitzy lounges and restaurants.

  • Hollywood Casino Columbus unveiled its new Barstool Sportsbook in February and has fielded nearly $18 million in bets to date.

Meanwhile, lottery kiosk betting is so nonexistent that Ohio is actually losing money on this front.

  • Ohioans have bet just $6.5 million at nearly 1,000 participating bars, restaurants and bowling alleys — netting the state just $141,000 in revenue so far.
  • But these kiosks cost the state lottery commission $650,000 a year in administrative costs, WBNS-TV reports.

What we're watching: How these betting totals look once pro and college football seasons kick off next month.

  • We anticipate the first OSU/Michigan game with legal betting is going to blow the gambling receipts off the charts.

2. 🗳 GOP may try again on Issue 1

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman speaking into a microphone on the Senate floor.

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman speaking inside the Statehouse. Photo: Courtesy of the Ohio Senate

Ohio voters rejected Issue 1 by a convincing margin, but that may not be the final word.

Driving the news: After Tuesday's election was called, Senate President Matt Huffman said that lawmakers would "probably" bring the question before voters again, reports.

Why it matters: The comment signals Ohio Republicans' desire to curb left-leaning constitutional amendments beyond the November abortion rights vote.

State of play: Issue 1 backers offered scant concessions in the wake of its 14-point defeat.

What he's saying: Issue 1 "is only one battle in a long war," LaRose wrote.

  • "I've said for months now that there's an assault coming on our constitution, and that hasn't changed. I'm just getting started in the fight to protect Ohio's values."

The other side: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who is running for re-election in 2024, called the special election an attempted "power grab" and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

  • He urged state lawmakers to focus on education and workforce development issues rather than pursuing this again.
  • "I don't know what you have to do to make them learn," he said in a Wednesday press call.

3. Nutshells: Your local news roundup

Illustration of a buckeye nut bouncing across the screen.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

📖 Donovan Lewis, the 20-year-old a Columbus police officer shot and killed in his apartment last August, started speaking out against police violence as a teenager and was partly inspired by a novel he read in high school. (Columbus Monthly)

🏥 Circulo Health, a Columbus-based health tech startup, has closed two of its three business lines amid layoffs, executive departures and exhaustion of its venture capital investments. (Axios Pro)

🥣 Zoup! closed its Arena District location — its fourth this year — and now operates just one local restaurant at Easton. (614 Magazine)

4. ⛽ Charted: Gas prices rise

Data: GasBuddy; Note: Price as of the 1st of each month; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: GasBuddy; Note: Price as of the 1st of each month; Chart: Axios Visuals

Here's an excuse to squeeze in one last summer road trip: Columbus is feeling less pain at the pump when compared to the national average.

Yes, but: Our average price for a gallon of gas ($3.55) has still trended upward most of this year, and is only a few cents lower than August 2022.

Between the lines: Gas prices have ticked up in recent weeks due to excessive heat in Gulf states like Texas and Louisiana, where many of the country's oil refineries are located.

  • Refineries, which turn crude oil into products like gasoline, don't function as efficiently in 100+ degree weather, Axios' Emily Peck reports.

On the job hunt?

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5. Throwback Thursday: Poky poll tallies

An old newspaper headline reading, "Speedier Election Returns Sought."

From the Feb. 16, 1923, edition of the Bucyrus News-Forum, via

State leaders from the Roaring '20s are partly to thank for Ohio's currently speedy process of counting and reporting election results.

State of play: Ohio announced the early vote totals just minutes after the polls closed Tuesday night, while election day tallies were reported within a few hours.

Flashback: There was a time when county elections boards had 10 days to report results to the Ohio Secretary of State.

  • It wasn't just a lack of technology that slowed things down. One county reportedly took the day after an election off to attend a local circus.

By 1923, lawmakers had had enough. They enacted a bill requiring elections employees to remain at work on election day until all available votes were counted.

The intrigue: Newspapers were understandably thrilled with the change.

  • The Mansfield News called that November's election the "best ever" for reporting speedy returns.

Be smart: Election night results are considered unofficial until officials certify them later in the month.

This newsletter was edited by Lindsey Erdody and copy edited by Kate Sommers-Dawes and Keely Bastow.

Our picks:

🥜 Tyler is reading about the return of "The Big Peanut," a giant Georgia goober that was once ruined by a hurricane.

🤢 Alissa is now having flashbacks of the boiled peanuts she tried during a Georgia visit.