In December, NBC4i.com will have a series of reports on sports gambling, which becomes legal in Ohio on Jan. 1.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Peach Bowl is likely the last Ohio State Buckeyes game Ohioans cannot legally bet on, to the chagrin of online sportsbooks.
With an 8 p.m. kickoff on New Year’s Eve, it misses Ohio’s sports gambling universal start date by a few hours, give or take.
“Fingers crossed Ohio State will still be involved come the first of January,” FanDuel Online Sportsbook General Manager Karol Corcoran said in an interview. “It’s a shame that we are going live at midnight.”
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The Peach Bowl outcome is not certain. But the outcome of New Year’s Day is largely set in stone for online sports betting companies, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, which are ready to kick off legalized gambling on athletic events in Ohio.
“Jan. 1 is a great time. There are college bowl games,” DraftKings Cofounder and North American President Matt Kalish said. “The NFL, NBA is in full swing, hockey — everything is going right now, so it’s actually a really good time to launch.”
Ahead of its launch in Ohio, DraftKings is operating in 21 states. FanDuel is in 17. Some of those states, such as Mississippi and Washington, only allow for retail, in-person sports gambling.
After the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 struck down a 1992 law that effectively banned sports betting, and as state legislatures have since pursued and passed bills that legalize it, digital sportsbooks have rolled out across the country on a state-by-state basis — with a launch in one state sometimes informing the process and procedures for the next.
Less than five years later, DraftKings sees millions of bets per day during peak football season, Kalish said.
Most digital sportsbooks have both app and web-based versions, where bettors can wager on the outcome of games and the difference in score, on athletes and their statistics, or on a series of outcomes through parlay-style betting. Both DraftKings and FanDuel also offer live, in-game betting after kickoff.
To register with their sportsbooks, Kalish and Corcoran both said users will be required to provide some personal information to make an account — including a way to verify their age. The legal age limit to bet on athletic events is 21 in Ohio.
Although bettors can’t wager until after midnight on Jan. 1, DraftKings and FanDuel are among a number of sportsbooks also promoting three-digit sized bonuses in “free bets” for Ohioans who sign on with their sportsbook ahead of the start date.
‘So fast, it’s so addictive:’ Accessibility of online sportsbooks creates risks for some
Bruce Jones, an administrative coordinator and problem gambling counselor at Maryhaven, said he already treats a number of patients who struggle with problem sports gambling. Jones has worked with them far before the first legal bets on athletic events will be wagered in Ohio.
One of Jones’ patients recently told Jones they are avoiding Twitter right now, where ads from a deluge of digital sportsbooks promise those early-bird promotional bonuses for people who sign up ahead of Jan. 1. “They’re being bombarded,” Jones said.
In 2017, one in four Ohioans who participated in sports gambling was in the at-risk category, according to a report by Ohio for Responsible Gambling. The nonprofit is in the process of finalizing results from that same survey conducted in 2022, so the state has a baseline once sports gambling becomes legal.
Unregulated betting already “exists in all states,” Corcoran said. Legalization means regulation, a journey that the country is currently on, he said. Both DraftKings and FanDuel enable users to set limits on time and money on their apps.
Still, the nature of online sportsbooks — where bets move quickly and are granular, down to the number of touchdown passes a quarterback might throw — is likely going to become problematic for at least some Ohioans, Jones said.
“There is more action, a faster pace, and it’s just going to be the ease and access,” Jones said. “It’s right at your fingertips.”
The most at-risk demographic for problem sports gambling generally skews younger and male, according to Derek Longmeier, the executive director of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio.
Longmeier said he and others are looking to other states as Ohio barrels toward Jan. 1.
“While we recognize that the majority of Ohioans who bet on sports won’t have a problem, there is a population that will, and we just want to be available and support those that need us,” Longmeier said in an interview.
Do you believe you have a gambling problem? Click here for a list of resources, or call the Ohio Problem Gambling Hotline at 1 (800) 589-9966.