WEST CHESTER, Ohio — With less than four months to go until Ohio launches sports betting in Ohio, the major operators of online and retail sports books have now been identified in a licensing process organized by the Ohio Casino Control Commission.
In southwest Ohio that means:
- The Cincinnati Reds will partner with Underdog Sports Wagering LLC for online betting and Bet MGM LLC for a retail sports book, possibly in the Banks riverfont district.
- FC Cincinnati will partner with SuperBook on a retail sports book at or near TQL Stadium. It also applied for an online betting license that names SuperBook as its service provider.
- Downtown’s Hard Rock Casino has identified its digital sports book as the operator of its online and retail sports books.
- Belterra Park racino in Anderson Township and Miami Valley Gaming in Monroe are both planning retail and online sports books, but neither has identified an operating partner in state records.
- The Cincinnati Bengals have selected UK-based Betfred as the operator of an online sports book. But it has yet to apply for a retail sports book license.
All of that leaves many questions unanswered about this segment of Ohio’s new sports betting industry. Will the Cincinnati Bengals add a physical location for sports betting, as envisioned by stadium planners? Will anyone claim the two available licenses that could still be issued in Warren and Clermont counties? And how much money will these new betting parlors make?
“Like any business, I think we’re going to have to grow it,” said Tyler Wogenstahl, managing member of Lori’s Roadhouse LLC.
The country music venue in West Chester has applied for the only retail sports book license available in Butler County. It plans to hire up to 75 new employees to run the business and invest in new TV screens, betting terminals, cashier windows and a ticker-tape display that wraps around its massive bar.
Wogenstahl would not disclose how much he plans to invest or predict how much revenue the business will generate. But he isn’t concerned that his retail sports book will be surrounded by five rival locations within a 40-minute drive of Lori’s Roadhouse. The list of competitors includes the Barstool Sports Book at Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, which already generates more than $1 million in monthly revenue from sports betting.
“Ohio is going to have to grow their sports-betting business,” he said. “If we do that and we do it well and provide good hospitality for people around Butler County, I think we’ll do well.”
Ohio is launching one of the most ambitious gambling expansions in the country with its sports-betting framework that offers three kinds of licenses that will enable more than a thousand betting locations to open simultaneously on January 1, 2023.
So far, 22 companies have applied for licenses to offer bets via computer and cellphones, while more than 1,000 bars and restaurants have applied to host up to two sports-betting kiosks. Jointly regulated by the Ohio Lottery Commission and the Casino Control Commission, the kiosks offer limited betting options but allow bar owners to secure a license for $1,000. By contrast, online licenses can cost up to $2.5 million, while sports book license holders will pay up to $120,000.
All three kinds of license holders are required to partner with a service provider that runs the betting side of the business, setting odds, offering promotions and paying winners.
In most states, online operators dominate the industry – claiming upwards of 90% of the total handle, or the dollar amount of all bets made. Ohio estimates it will generate $243 million in annual tax revenue from a total handle of $3.35 billion within a few years of launch. But industry analysts have said Ohio could reach two to four times that total, based on the variety of options that will be available here.
What that means for individual operators is far from clear at this point.
“We really don’t know what the competitive landscape is going to look like here,” said Dr. Kamal Morar, co-founder of Wright Bet Ventures, a Dayton-based company that partnered with Elys Game Technology to pursue sports-betting opportunities in Ohio.
Morar is a radiologist from Dayton who thought about pursuing a retail sports-book license with Elsa’s Sports Grill in Kettering. But he said “the potential cost of them not qualifying was just too much,” so he’s working with the company to develop a kiosk betting solution that will “convert the average Ohio sports bar into something that looks and feels like a mini-Vegas sports book.”
Elys Technology, a Nasdaq-traded company based in Toronto, is one of seven companies seeking a proprietor’s license to operate sports-betting kiosks in Ohio. Those kiosks will surround Wogenstahl’s planned sports book in West Chester, but he doubts he’ll have to compete with them.
“We’re in the hospitality business,” Wogenstahl said. “I think sports betting is going to be a great amenity for our guests here. But we already have a robust business.”