COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Aside from Christmas trees now out at Scioto Downs, new counters for its soon-to-be physical sportsbook were installed Monday, and signs advertising it now decorate the horse racing track and casino on South High Street.
It’s a signal that as 2022 comes to a close, casinos in the state and national digital sportsbook apps are mostly just ready to usher in the new year. On Jan. 1 — exactly when the clock strikes midnight — sports betting will be legal in Ohio.
Some proprietors, vendors “just waiting” for universal start date
Amy Anker, senior vice president and general manager at Scioto Downs, said the casino’s physical sportsbook is about 95% ready for Jan. 1, with a few loose ends left to be tied. Next week, the Ohio Casino Control Commission will perform final, on-site location checks.
“We are literally days away,” Anker said. “We’re really excited. Obviously, the state of Ohio has a lot to offer.”
Scioto Downs will offer in-person gambling through tellers or at kiosks on the property, and through the online Caesars Sportsbook; Ohioans can also place bets through an app on their phones starting in January.
“I am really proud of just the collaboration of everybody, from the OCCC [Ohio Casino Control Commission], to the builders that we had come in here, to our team members. They have just put so much blood, sweat, and tears into the buildout of this,” Anker said.
DraftKings, an online sports betting company, is essentially “just waiting” for Jan. 1. Cofounder and North American President Matt Kalish said DraftKings has launched sportsbooks in 21 states before Ohio, so the preparations were not as heavy of a lift.
“We’ve really hammered out that process, and tried to make it just easier and easier every time,” Kalish said.
Kalish said DraftKings said it is mostly working on advertising in the state and getting the word out as it awaits final licensure.
“You never want to assume everything is done until it’s done,” Kalish said. But he added, “Everyone’s on the same page, I think, about, yeah, let’s get this party started.”
But Jessica Franks, the communications director for the Casino Control Commission, said some proprietors and vendors may not kick anything off until the universal start date.
“I know that there are some folks out there that have publicly said that they are not going to be ready to start on Jan. 1,” Franks said. While online and mobile proprietors are more likely ready to launch then, she said, some entities offering physical sportsbooks may choose to wait.
That includes Cincinnati-based grocer Kroger, which has no plans to open or operate its in-store sports gambling kiosks until later in the year, even after applying and receiving approval earlier this year. A spokesperson said Kroger is “still doing our due diligence for the program.”
Ohio Casino Control Commission has work left to do, too
With a month to go, a fair amount of licensing still faces the commission, Franks said. And along with on-site visits that start in December mixed with normal year-to-year regulation business, commission staff members have been working “very diligently” through the flurry of activity.
“It’s just a busy time,” Franks said. “We are working hard over here at the commission to make sure that everything is ready to go on day one.”
Application deadlines are in the rearview for proprietors and vendors aiming to launch on Jan. 1. But Friday is the last day in-person sports betting locations can ready their equipment for on-site checks, which staff will begin in December to verify that their proposals match what is physically in place.
The commission is also scheduled to meet once more before the end of the year, on Dec. 14, and Franks said it will likely knock a good amount of licensing out then.
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