CLEVELAND — The countdown to the 2023 New Year coincided with the long-anticipated countdown to sports betting in Ohio. Midnight marked the legalization of sports wagers in the state.
“The fact that we brought sports betting here to Ohio, I think it’s a phenomenal thing. I think it’s going to do a lot of good things for the state,” said Matt Lewis.
Lewis placed the first ever sports bet at MGM Northfield Park, seconds after it became legal in Ohio. The Stow man put money on the Cleveland Browns to beat the Washington Commanders later in the day.
“Given this historic moment in the state, it felt right to go with the Cleveland Browns,” he said.
At the same time, Christine Hoyer wagered the first sports bet at JACK Casino in downtown Cleveland. The Chief Development Officer of Special Olympics Ohio wagered $68 that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win a national title this season. The amount was representative of the 1968 founding date for the organization.
betJACK planned to make a donation to Special Olympics Ohio matching the amount wagered in the first two hours of legal sports betting, up to $20,000.
“This is an emerging partnership that makes a lot of sense, given that we’re both sports organizations and prioritize sports,” Hoyer said.
After several delays and failed bills, Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 29 into law in December 2021. Throughout 2022, the state hammered out details of the new industry, which is regulated by the Ohio Lottery and the Casino Control Commission.
On January first, 12 licensed retail sportsbooks and 16 online sportsbooks were officially open for business. Others have been approved by the Casino Control Commission and will launch throughout the year.
“All my gamblers out there have been waiting for this day, all my friends, family. We were looking for a place that’s close by. And now we finally have it,” said Tony Banks, who was among the first to place bets at JACK Casino.
According to early projections from PlayOhio, Ohioans are expected to wager about $8 billion in the first year. BetOhio anticipates the state will net around $50 million in 2023.
“It’s going to generate a lot of money, tax revenue, for the state of Ohio through all its avenues,” said Scott Lokke, the Senior Vice President and General Manager for JACK Cleveland Casino.
Ohio is now among 32 states and Washington, DC to have some capacity of legalized sports wagering. Advocates say it will make Ohio more economically competitive.
“We’ve been surrounded by states that have been sports betting for quite some time now. So to be able to keep that money here and for our state, which can do so much for us, it means a lot,” said Aleksandra Breault, the Director of PR and Communications for JACK Entertainment.
Others believe it will change the fan experience for Ohio sports supporters.
“Especially in a state like Ohio, where you have sports fans that are as rabid as the fans here, you can have a stake in your home team,” said Matt Buckley, the President and COO of MGM Resorts’ Midwest Group.
98 percent of the tax revenue Ohio makes from sports betting will go to the Sports Gaming Profits Education Fund (SGPEF). The General Assembly will decide how to allocate the money to Ohio schools.
The remaining 2 percent of tax revenue will go to the Problem Sports Gaming Fund to help problem gamblers.
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