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Ohio restaurants scramble for a shot at adding sports betting

The application process has opened for 1,000 establishments, with the gaming scheduled to begin Jan. 1.
Photograph: Shutterstock

The prospect of offering onsite sports betting in 2023 has Ohio restaurants and bars scrambling to apply for a gaming license.

Under the staggered application process that began July 15, 1,000 eating or drinking places can now apply to install a betting station before sports wagering begins on Jan. 1. Some liken the technology to the self-service kiosks that sell lottery tickets in some states.

The 1,000 restaurants have first crack because they already hold a permit to sell lottery or keno tickets as well a license to sell alcoholic beverages. They are essentially pre-approved.

About 250 to 300 establishments have already applied for the sports-gaming license, according to local media reports.

Other places with a liquor license will be eligible to apply after Aug. 15.

The application and a three-year license cost $1,000. The betting machines will be provided by approved third parties under terms negotiated between the technology providers and the host hospitality sites. The terms will cover such particulars as the cost of the machines and any split of the revenues, according to the Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA).

Some restaurants may use the kiosks merely as a way to draw and entertain customers, according to the group. “We don’t know the opportunities yet, to be honest with you,” said Tod Bowen, director of government relations for the ORA.

The association pushed to ensure restaurants were among the beneficiaries of sports betting once it was apparent Ohio would permit that form of gaming. Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill legalizing sports books in late December.

“We wanted to make sure Ohio’s bars and restaurants had a robust opportunity to be involved. And we’re certainly successful in that,” said Bowen.

ORA members “are glad that the opportunity is there and now are informing themselves about whether this is right for their business,” he continues. “For some bars and restaurants, this will make sense. For others, this won’t.”

Operationally, he said, the impact should be negligible. He expects the adoption of sports betting to be no more of a wrinkle than the introduction years ago of in-restaurant keno games.

The sports equipment and betting functions will be handled by third parties. The host restaurant or bar merely provides the setting, Bowen said.

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