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Sports betting at Northeast Ohio bars and restaurants is live but many machines aren't quite ready

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Posted at 10:49 PM, Jan 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-06 11:36:36-05

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — More than 300 Northeast Ohio bars and restaurants received their Type C Sports Gaming Host license from the Ohio Lottery.

Let’s face it, sports are really northeast Ohio bars’ bread and butter.

“It’s kind of what we do in Cleveland, right? We love being the underdog. We love having that chip on our shoulder. Even when we are the favorite, we are the underdog,” said David Grace, the proprietor of Gunselman’s Tavern in Fairview Park.

He figured while rooting for the underdog, you might as well be able to bet on them, too.

“If you come to Gunselman’s Tavern in Fairview Park, you’re going to have a great time, if you win a little money on top of it, even better,” said Grace.

Brew Garden in Middleburg Heights had the same idea. John Zambounis is the assistant manager.

“Besides the food, the drinking, it’s a good time. Obviously, we want people to have fun with it and enjoy themselves and it seems like it is working,” he said.

Brew Garden and Gunselman’s Tavern were approved for the sports gaming license through the Ohio Lottery late last year.

Both businesses decided to use the company Intralot to host their wagers, it’s the same company that is in charge of KENO machines.

“We’ve had a wonderful relationship with Ohio Lottery already because we already have a KENO and are a lottery distributor, so it made perfect sense for us to piggyback,” said Grace.

Zambounis echoed his sentiment.

“We do really well with KENO and that style of gambling so I think we will do really well here considering we do great with sports, in general,” said Zambounis. “We figured with all the companies Intralot is going to be the most seamless for us to go with because we already have the equipment here. It will be a split screen on the KENO machine and it will say ‘Ohio Lottery’ and ‘Sports Bet Ohio.’”

The machines were supposed to be up and running by Jan. 1, but it has taken a bit longer than anticipated.

“It’s new for them so this is a big process and obviously we don’t want them to screw up and us be out money so getting it done right is better than done faster,” said Zambounis.

Most of the local establishments are in the same boat: you can bet but not on the machines just yet.

Right now, for businesses that chose Intralot to host their sports gaming, you have to download the app called SportsBet Ohio, you pick the bet on your phone and receive a QR code, take it to the establishments’ employees and scan your code to print out a ticket.

According to the Ohio Lottery, the kiosks should be up in running in the next few weeks.

“It’s a little bit more hoops to jump through than we’d like, so in about two weeks it will be more seamless, like they’re playing a KENO ticket is the best way I can describe it,” said Grace. “I think they should’ve been more prepared for the launch itself but I understand and it’s going to be here for the long haul so I’m not upset about it.”

Both Gunselman’s Tavern and Brew Garden said they’re just excited about what sports betting will add to their guests’ experience.

“More than just bringing people in the building, it’s something fun while they’re here,” said Zambounis.

Which feels like a win already.

“If you can, let’s say, place a $5 wager on the Guardians to win and that keeps you hear an extra inning longer to see if your bet wins, fantastic right?” said Grace.

To see a list of all of the establishments throughout the state that will offer sports gaming, just click here.