Sports Betting Roundup: Ohio moves closer; New Jersey dominates, and more

Jay Dieffenbach

Those long-suffering Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals fans may soon have an outlet for legal sports gambling – something to take their collective minds off of the on-field fortunes of their favorite teams.

Ohio senators last Thursday pushed a bill that would offer 40 betting licenses that would cost $1 million apiece. Of those, 20 would be brick-and-mortar applicants.

Ohio has 11 casinos and racinos who could partner with online sportsbooks.

A story said Senate Bill 176 would “create 20 licenses, called type B, for in-person sports betting, such as sports bars that offer proposition bets.”

If the bookmaker also wishes to provide online and in-person betting, two licenses would be needed, a Senate spokesman told the outlet.

Many state models include pro sports teams, which are able to host sportsbooks. In Arizona, for example, Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks and the National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Suns plan in-house sportsbooks that will be less than a mile from each other.

The PGA tournament also will have a sportsbook at the TPC Scottsdale, home of the PGA’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Ohio's professional sports teams wouldn't be guaranteed a license, but they could apply for one, Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton told Those teams and the PGA Tour Memorial Tournament had requested their own licenses.

In a statement, the Ohio Professional Sports Coalition said: "Our coalition members produce the games that make sports betting possible, and it’s important that our businesses have fair market access to mobile and physical sports betting applications included in the Senate bill. There is no sports betting without sports.”

Schuring echoed the thoughts and actions of many lawmakers since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision overturned the ban on single-event sports gambling: It’s already happening, so why not capitalize?

"This is not about revenue generation. This is about something that is occurring right now in Ohio illegally," Schuring said in the story. "We want to put guardrails around it, and we want to make sure it's being done properly with the right regulatory authority."

Lawmakers hope to move quickly on the gaming bill, passing it before the end of June.

"The goal of getting sports betting done before we recess for the summer is a high priority," House Speaker Bob Cupp said last Wednesday.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission would rule on the college sports betting landscape.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

The Inter-University Council of Ohio, which represents the state's 14 public universities, had asked lawmakers to exempt collegiate sports from gambling in Ohio. Under the proposals, no bets could be placed on K-12 sports.

The Ohio Lottery Commission could also accept wagers on sporting events from adults age 21 and older in sports pools. For example, 1,000 fans would pay $20 to bet on who would win the Cleveland Browns-Cincinnati Bengals game. The Ohio Lottery Commission would collect 10% of the proceeds for K-12 education and the remaining $18,000 would be divided among the winning tickets.

March numbers show Illinois closing in on Sin City

With Illinois reporting its March sports betting numbers, the Action Network’s Darren Rovell tweeted a snapshot of U.S. states’ success in the growing American market.

The leading states, by handle:

  1. New Jersey, $860 million.
  2. Nevada, $641 million.
  3. Illinois, $634 million.
  4. Pennsylvania, $560 million.
  5. Michigan, $384 million.
  6. Indiana, $317 million.
  7. Virginia, $304 million.
  8. Colorado, $301 million.

Caesars moves forward; William Hill’s name moves back

Caesars will “significantly” ramp up its investment in U.S. sports betting, it said at its Q1 results last Tuesday, after closing its acquisition of William Hill.

That $3.7 billion deal completed late last month creates a partnering digital business that did around $150 million revenue in Q1.

Caesars CEO Tom Reeg underscored his company’s eye for turning up the pressure in the market.

“William Hill with the UK parent and UK investor mindset, was more conservative toward leverage and not as aggressive as we expect to be in this business,” Reeg said, adding that the negotiating process cost William Hill some success, as it was “fighting with an arm behind its back” last football season.

The famed William Hill name already is disappearing. The new parent company plans to promote Caesars strongly, and will change the app to Caesars Sports. The William Hill brand will remain in some states, a company spokesperson said.

The company then aims to merge its two apps together on Hill’s Liberty platform with a single wallet.

With Caesars preparing to push more cash behind the product, Reeg offered the following insights:

“We see a great correlation between spend and market share at this point. And not quite so much (correlation) for brand or other non-spend categories. That’s a good sign for us when I talk about the cash flow that we’re generating right now.”

Reeg said Caesars would soon be throwing up $100 million in free cash flow every month that could be put behind sports betting.

“You shouldn’t expect us to be just throwing money away to buy market share. You should expect us to build this thoughtfully, but you should expect to see a significant increase in investment in this side now that we’ve got all our ducks in a row.”

Reeg referenced Michigan’s reaction to BetMGM in that state over the past several months. In March, BetMGM was the No. 2 online sportsbook in the state, and largest online gaming operator.

“(BetMGM) came from a position similar to where William Hill was, to a leadership position in a market thanks to a large database. That gives us a lot of confidence as we move forward.”

Caesars’ recent maneuvering including its part in becoming an official “tri-exclusive” partner of the NFL. The company also will sponsor the New Orleans Saints’ Superdome.

The company’s share price was up again, trading at $106 as of midday Monday. Just more than a year ago, shares sat below $9 as the coronavirus pandemic began.

And, in a nod to the hopeful signs of widespread reopening, Caesars also said weekends in Las Vegas were sold out for the foreseeable future.

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