As of the 1st of January, one of the bellwether states of America will become the newest market to offer legal sports betting. There has been a lot of anticipation about how Ohio will adapt to betting, not least because in the minds of many people, it is about as close as you can get to the average US state. New York, or California? They’re almost like independent nations, with economies all of their own and identities that differentiate them? Texas, or Florida? They’re almost too large, spanning huge landmasses and with giant populations. Ohio is what many people would consider to the real America in microcosm. So if betting is successful there, it could work anywhere.
This has meant that a lot of people, on both sides of the argument, have looked at Ohio to see how betting performs there. There are certainly good reasons it can be expected to thrive. For one thing, Ohio is rich in one of the most vital resources a state can have when it comes to successful sports betting, and that’s sports teams. The state can boast pro teams in more than one city in both the baseball and football leagues. Cleveland has the Browns in the NFL and the Guardians in the MLB. Cincinnati has the Bengals and the Reds. There are also notable teams in the NBA and in soccer, so there are enough local sports fans who will want to back their teams in the form of an occasional bet.
Perhaps most importantly, Ohio is one of the states that has really waited to do sports betting, and has devoted time, effort and resources to getting it right. Many states of comparable size and demographic profile have already opened their sports betting platforms. Others, which passed legislation much more recently than the Buckeye State, have gone from legalizing betting to operating an industry with much less delay. Ohio, very deliberately, set a date in the distant future and used the time available to them to get things in place. So the success of betting in the state should be as close to assured as you can get.
Ohio has also set the tax on sports betting at a relatively high level – 33%. That’s more than most, although not as high as it is in New York. But with a big population, a lot of popular sports teams, and big names like Joe Burrow, Lebron James, and Deshaun Watson plying their trade on the fields and courts of America, that should mean that a significant revenue from sports betting drives a considerable tax take, which is being split between a number of important causes. Police training will be funded out of this money, as will public education and, importantly, treatment and counselling for problem betting.
Few states have seen a more keenly anticipated launch for sports betting since the 2018 Supreme Court decision that made this possible. Ohio and its betting platforms will be watched very closely, particularly by those states that are still considering whether to adopt sports betting.