CLEVELAND — Ohioans are just a few weeks away from the introduction of legalized sports betting in the state.
The sports books at the JACK Casino and JACK Thistledown Racino are already open to customers even though they’re not yet taking bets; they’re trying to whet the appetite of future sports betting customers. So too are the roughly 20 online sports betting sites that are already flooding the airwaves and internet offering customers free bets if they sign up with them before Jan. 1.
"It's a tried and tested tactic for these operators which is to try and dangle a carrot before customers," said Geoff Zochodne, a sports betting analyst for Covers.com. "There will be pretty robust competition in Ohio, it's viewed as a very significant market for these operators and we have seen operators put forth these preregistration offers. Trying to get people in the doors before the actual wagering can begin."
The offers tend to be in the $100 to $200 range but are mostly limited to a short time frame around the January first launch.
"It's kind on incumbent on people at the beginning to really read over the terms of these offers for these free bets," he said. "To ensure you are getting the best deal."
Also remember, to start sports betting will be limited to the actions of the athletes on the field of play so prop bets like the coin toss, how long the national anthem goes or the color of Gatorade poured on a winning coach are not allowed—at least initially.
"There are certain wagers that are going to be restricted by the casino commission," Zochodne said. "Regulators have made some certain determinations where they want to ensure above all that the integrity of anything that people are betting on is 100% solid, and so it seems for the time being, they've just decided that these wagers—they want to take them off the board— just give people the kind of meat and potatoes of betting."
But that could still change, he added. "We're still in a bit of a consultation period. I think that operators still have some time to go to the commission and ask for more betting markets if they want them so there is some wiggle room."
The legislation creating sports betting called for a launch date no later than Jan. 1. In June, the Ohio Casino Control Commission removed the "no later than" portion in making Jan. 1 the universal launch date. What they did not anticipate is four hours before that midnight launch Ohio State would be playing in an FBS playoff game. So might they consider moving it up a day? Unlikely.
"It's going to be tough for them to move off that Jan. 1 day just because of all of the work that revolves around it but if ever there were an event to put the pressure on them to do that this would probably be it," Zochodne said.
The Casino Control Commission told News 5, because all forms of gambling, mobile, in person and kiosks are required to launch at the same time on the same date that date and time is set as Jan.1
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