As the Ohio State Buckeyes have marched all the way back into the College Football Playoff, in-state bettors have been stuck on the sidelines ahead of the official launch of legalized Ohio sports betting. They won’t have to wait much longer.
On Jan. 1, 2023, bettors in the Buckeye State will join those from 31 other states (and Washington, D.C.) who can legally bet on their favorite teams and sports. That includes wagers on in-state college football teams – something that’s currently prohibited in a handful of states, including New York and New Jersey.
As of Tuesday, more than a dozen sportsbooks – including BetMGM, Caesars, and FanDuel – had been licensed to start taking wagers in Ohio as soon as New Year’s Day. That comes just over a year after legalized sports betting was signed into law in the state and one day after Ohio State’s semifinal showdown with defending champion Georgia in the College Football Playoff.
So, how did we get here? And will Ohio’s big launch come in time for fans to bet on bowl season?
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Ohio sports betting approaching Jan. 1 launch
Ohio residents have endured a lengthy battle to introduce legalized sports betting in the nation’s seventh-largest state, which is one of the last major dominos to fall since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal law that prohibited sports gambling in May 2018.
Efforts to legalize sports betting in Ohio had been stymied as far back as 2019 before legislators broke through with House Bill 29, which passed overwhelmingly on Dec. 8, 2021. Gov. Mike DeWine signed HB 29 into law exactly two weeks later, with many hoping for full statewide implementation before a mandated launch on Jan. 1, 2023.
That hasn’t transpired, much to the chagrin of Ohio sports fans, but the yearlong rollout has given sportsbooks plenty of time to prepare for next month’s highly anticipated launch. As of Tuesday, 16 sports betting operators had been granted licenses to take bets on launch day, with more expected in the coming weeks.
In total, HB 29 allows for up to 50 online and mobile operators and 40 brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, while nearly a thousand licenses have already been issued for kiosk-style betting with stricter limits. That includes hundreds of kiosks at popular grocery stores, though many of those won’t be operational until later in 2023.
Sports fans eagerly await Ohio sports betting
Few states are better suited for legalized sports gambling than Ohio, which boasts a massive population and is one of the only states with teams across all four major professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL). It’s no surprise that some estimate the state’s betting market could eventually gross upwards of $1 billion annually.
Just take a look at how popular sports betting has been in neighboring states, which have enjoyed resounding success since their launches. In fact, nearby Pennsylvania and Illinois both grossed more revenue from sports wagering last year than Nevada, while Michigan also ranked in the top five.
Ohio is on track for a similar debut, and the college market in particular could separate the Buckeye State from the pack. Unlike in some states, bettors will be able to wager on local teams like Ohio State and Cincinnati, each of which have played in the College Football Playoff over the last two seasons.
While the Jan. 1 launch won’t be in time to back the Buckeyes in this year’s playoff semifinal, Ohio residents will be able to bet on Big Ten schools Penn State, Purdue, and Illinois – all of whom are underdogs in their respective bowl games on Jan. 2. And if Ohio State wins on Dec. 31, it could set up an all-time clash with archrival Michigan in the championship game a week later.
Early odds have the Buckeyes favored in that hypothetical rematch, which would be the ultimate holiday gift for eager in-state bettors. Until then, they’ll have Jan. 1 circled on their calendar ahead of what promises to be a busy (and historic) day in Ohio.