The work to get sports betting in Ohio up and running may be grating on the nerves of regulators but it is still making significant progress, as several mobile operators have now been awarded licenses.
The Ohio Casino Control Commission approved the first round of mobile management services provider licenses on Wednesday, which were conditionally granted to PointsBet, Caesars Sportsbook, Betfred, bet365, and SuperBook Sports.
Caesars and SuperBook were conditionally approved for retail sports betting provider licenses as well. All the permits have five-year terms and are effective as of Jan. 1, 2023, the universal start date for legal sports betting in Ohio.
The approvals are a major milestone for sports betting in Ohio in general, as it now tees up several online sportsbooks to take wagers for their market-access partners on day one of legal wagering.
PointsBet plans to provide online sports betting on behalf of Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley, Caesars for Scioto Downs, Betfred for the Cincinnati Bengals, bet365 for the Cleveland Guardians, and SuperBook for FC Cincinnati.
Keeping busy in the Buckeye State
Ohio’s sports-betting law initially allows for up to 25 online sports betting licenses to be awarded to “proprietors,” such as a casino or sports team, who can partner with up to two mobile management services providers, such as Betfred or bet365. A proprietor can qualify for a second mobile skin after demonstrating an economic benefit would arise from the arrangement, among other things.
Almost 20 proprietors have been approved for their online licenses, including several sports teams and gaming facilities, such as the Cleveland Browns. There are 25 applications for mobile management services provider licenses as well, including the five that were approved on Wednesday.
The online licenses in Ohio are in addition to 40 permits for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks that are available for proprietors, who can also use a service provider to conduct those in-person wagering operations. There are also more than 1,000 bars, restaurants, and other businesses in line to host sports-betting kiosks.
Thirty-seven kiosk hosts were approved on Wednesday by the Ohio Casino Control Commission. Those licenses are in addition to approvals for over 800 other so-called "Type-C" hosts that have been approved by the regulator.
Furthermore, the Ohio Casino Control Commission approved more rules for sports betting on Wednesday, such as those that will govern advertising and customer complaints.
Regulators were told that, with the approval and after the final filing of the regulations, that will mean all of the commission's sports-betting regulations will have made it through the rulemaking process that began in December of last year.
'The genuine benefits of not acting like petulant children'
But the progress being made has come with some hassle, according to Ohio Casino Control Commission Executive Director Matt Schuler.
The director told commissioners that his staff has been “absolutely swamped” by operators trying to meet Wednesday’s deadline for persons in control to submit key employee applications or holding company forms. Schuler added that applicants are also constantly barraging them with questions about when they might be on the regulator’s agenda.
“And so my advice to the licensing division is every time an applicant calls with a ‘when are we going to be on the agenda’ question, to move them to the bottom of the pile,” Schuler said. “Or better yet … instead of answering their question, I want them to forward it to my cell phone so I can have a nice, good conversation about professional courtesy, about respect for people, respect for the process, and the genuine benefits of not acting like petulant children.”
Ohio’s looming launch date and the demands of lawmakers and applicants are adding to the workload at the casino control commission. Schuler noted that staffers have been working overtime to keep pace with the state’s rollout plans, for which they’re paid time-and-a-half, although he didn’t have a breakdown of what the extra cost would be.
More deadlines are looming too, as regulators and operators try to ensure everything is ready for January 1.
"As a reminder, complete, final, and Commission-approved versions of responsible gaming plans, required procedures, house rules, facility plans, geolocation procedures, and equipment test reports are due on November 2, if a business plans to start sports gaming or use the relevant equipment on January 1," the casino control commission said in an email to stakeholders last month. "Additionally, all standard sports gaming employee applications are due by November 2, to be guaranteed that those employees will be considered in time for January 1."