CLEVELAND — The Cincinnati Bengals upset of the Buffalo Bills Sunday was a win for the team, a win for Ohio and a win for its newest industry, legalized sports betting.
"We couldn't have asked for a better start," said Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati President George Goldhoff. "Where can you open a sports book and the hometown team is vying for a berth in the Super Bowl, we couldn't have asked for anything more."
He said the sports book was electric for the game and he expects the same this coming Sunday as the Jaguars take on the Chiefs.
"It's going to be absolutely crazy," he said. "In the cafe we're going to have a watch party and a sports buffet. It's going to be busy so get here early."
It’s volume seen online as well. GeoComply is a cybersecurity company that provides geolocation and security services to Ohio's online sports betting operators. It's basically their job to track when and where people log in to their accounts to make sure they're in the state and can legally bet. Earlier this month, in the first 48 hours, they recorded 11.3 million of those transactions, and while Cincinnati may be the state’s third largest city behind Columbus and Cleveland, they led the state at the start with nearly two million of those checks compared to a million in Columbus and 772,000 in Cleveland. All on the strength of the Bengals, which is good and bad, said Casey Clark, Senior Vice President with the American Gaming Association.
"There's a lot of action typically on a home team that's doing well and so that would be really good for the handle or the amount people are going to bet on the game in that market, but that can also have an impact on revenue, right? Because if the Bengals win, and man if they play like they did this past weekend, it's going to be tough to bet against them. That could be bad news for the book, so it will be really interesting to see how it goes," Clark said.
Hard Rock saw that in the betting preference of not just Cincinnati but the entire state.
"We absolutely have a lot of data and in yesterday's game, for instance, against the Bills, nearly 90% of all Ohio fans bet on the Bengals to win," said Goldhoff. "Everyone in Ohio wants the Bengals to win and they bet that way."
The American Gaming Association will be out at the end of the month with their projections of how much they predict will be wagered on the Super Bowl, which is sports betting's biggest draw. Last year, $7.6 billion was bet, up $3.3 billion or 78% from the year before. That's why industry analysts say don't look for those ads and promotional offers to diminish leading up to the game.
"You'll continue to see a lot of advertising pushes around new sports betting promos in Ohio, particularly ahead of the Super Bowl; it's the biggest sports betting day of the year," said Mitchell South with Sports Betting Dime. "So you'll continue to see new sports betting promos and bonuses offered at Ohio sports books right up until the Super Bowl and beyond."
"Beyond" because next month also has the second-biggest sports betting event of the year — the NCAA's March Madness.