Ohio Sports Betting Updates Provided At Gaming Industry Roundtable

Ohio Casino Control Commission Executive Director Matt Schuler recently offered Ohio legal sports betting updates, and insight into the process and challenges remaining as Ohio completes its journey into legalized sports betting. The OCCC is working diligently ahead of Ohio’s Jan. 1, 2023, universal launch date for Ohio sports betting online.

Vixio, a regulatory intelligence company, recently hosted a roundtable in which Schuler and other state gaming officials discussed the latest in their respective states.

Schuler was joined by John Martin, Director of Maryland Lottery & Gaming, and Cathy Judd-Stein, Chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Division. Included among Schuler’s Ohio legal sports betting updates are the commissions’ current focus, expectations — both from the OCCC’s and market entrants’ perspectives — and the difference between handling experienced versus inexperienced applicants.

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Ohio Sports Betting Updates: What Is The Primary Focus Right Now?

There are many variations of the cliche “time flies”, and time is certainly flying for those tasked with ensuring sports gambling launches in Ohio on Jan. 1, 2023.

“When you say three months it makes it sound like such a short period of time before we have to hit the bullseye,” Schuler said. “We are very much focused on achieving the Jan. 1 universal start date. The commission has established deadlines and a cadence in order to achieve the General Assembly’s mandate.”

The “cadence” Schuler mentions not only applies to applicants, but to the OCCC as well. The idea of waiting three months may be a drag to prospective bettors, but there is still a high volume of work to be completed before the first legal bets are placed in Ohio.

“Right now we’re in the licensing compliance phase,” Schuler said. “On the licensing side, we have 94 different applicants that require a determination and time to launch on the universal start date of Jan. 1. We’re working through all of those background investigations. In addition to that, my compliance team and responsible gambling team are making sure that all those applicants are submitting responsible gaming plans.”

Responsible gaming plans include internal controls, house rules, facility plans, testing on geolocation procedures, and equipment reports among others. The OCCC set a Nov. 2 deadline for this phase. Applicants who fail to meet these deadlines could find themselves on the sidelines on Jan. 1 and be forced to wait for a subsequent rollout.

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Ohio Sports Gaming: The Relationship Between Expectations And Reality

Talk of expectations focuses on the OCCC and the applicants. According to Schuler, reality has been friendlier than early expectations.

“With so many potential market entrants, we expected it to be a bit chaotic,” he said. “It’s gone much smoother than I initially expected given our timeframe and the length of time it takes to get rules through the process, and the volume of applications.”

Schuler exudes confidence and optimism that, in spite of the volume of work, his teams have a handle on the cadence required to meet the deadlines leading up to Jan. 1.

Unrealistic Expectations?

Schuler, however, did not express the same degree of confidence when discussing the expectations of some standalone, brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. He suggests some are missing the mark on what’s realistic. A “truly fundamental misunderstanding of the economics of sports gaming” is how Schuler worded it, and he discussed some of those fundamentals of sports gaming economics.

“Sports gaming is high volume, low margin. That for every dollar wagered, the house will generally keep a nickel. We also know from looking at all the other states, that 90% or more of wagers will be placed online. And for a standalone sportsbook, we’d expect it to be very low volume, and low margin.”

Even outside observers can appreciate the concern Schuler has on behalf of these potential entrants.

“Despite the vast amount of data we look at, our stakeholders truly believe their standalone sportsbook will generate the kind of revenue that is seen at any one of Ohio’s casinos. We don’t want folks paying the licenses and going through this only to have the plane crash.”

The performance — or lack thereof — of some of these standalone outfits will be a fascinating development to watch unfold.

Ohio Sports Betting Launch: Experience Matters

No matter the industry, experience is a valuable trait. That’s the case here where certain entrants are showing their naivety.

“Experienced gaming operators are prepared to meet all standards, and with little exception, have kept pace. They’ve been very easy to deal with,” Schuler said. “In stark contrast to that, the less experienced or new applicants have very little understanding of what’s very common in the industry to ensure integrity. The commission has had to spend a significant amount of time educating applicants on the content of the law.”

Schuler asked his staff to provide some of the more “outrageous” questions and comments they’ve received. Here are some of the best:

  • “The application is too long. Why do you need so much information?”
  • “Can’t we just submit the application we submitted to New Jersey?”
  • “Our owners don’t want to be fingerprinted, so we’re not going to be able to do that part.”
  • “Do we really have to answer all the questions in the multijurisdictional form?”
  • “Why do we have to develop so many internal controls? This is really difficult.”

Schuler is not one to take a soft stance against applicants that cut corners or seek special treatment. At a recent meeting in which the first five mobile sports betting operators were approved, Schuler, without naming anyone specifically, scolded applicants who he said are pressuring staff to act on incomplete applications.

To go a step further, Schuler said he has advised staff to send applicants that demand to be on a future agenda for approval to his cell phone, “so I can teach them to not act like petulant children.”

Yikes.

Ohio is on track to launch legal sports gambling on time, but it’s clear there will be no shortcuts granted.

About the Author

Craig Williams

Craig Williams is a Charlotte-based sportswriter who has worked professionally in the gaming, fantasy, and sports business industries. He’s an avid fantasy football player, managing over 100 leagues across multiple formats. When he’s not pouring over Vegas odds and statistics, he’s indulging in soccer and enjoys anything from LigaMX to Champions League.