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US Sports Betting Update – ten leading operators gain Ohio sports wagering licenses

US Sports Betting Update – ten leading operators gain Ohio sports wagering licenses

The country’s largest online sports betting operators have been cleared to launch in Ohio on New Year’s Day. The Ohio Casino Control Commission awarded 10 proprietor licenses to a series of professional sports teams and retail casinos on Thursday. Those organizations will host the likes of FanDuel, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook and Bet365 on their master licenses. Operators such as DraftKings and PointsBet were awarded standalone online sports betting licenses, meaning Ohioans will have a broad choice of sportsbooks from Day 1.

The Buckeye State is gearing up for the largest synchronized launch of sports betting in U.S. history on January 1. Online sports betting sites, mobile apps, retail sportsbook lounges and kiosks inside bars and taverns will go live simultaneously, just in time for football fans to bet on the Cleveland Browns at the Washington Commanders and the Cincinnati Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills. The licensing process is now well underway, and the first tranche of applicants gained approval this week.

Pro Sports Teams at the Center of the Industry

The 10 proprietor licenses went to the Bengals, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Guardians, Columbus Blue Jackets, FC Cincinnati, Boyd Gaming’s Belterra Park, Caesars Entertainment’s Scioto Downs, MGM Northfield Park and two Penn Entertainment venues – Hollywood Columbus and Hollywood Dayton. Boyd Gaming is a minority shareholder in FanDuel, so it will host the country’s No. 1 online sportsbook on its master license. MGM Northfield Park will naturally host BetMGM, while Scioto Downs will host Caesars Sportsbook. The Penn Entertainment venues will host Barstool Sportsbook and BetRivers.

Bet365 has tied up a market access agreement with the Cleveland Guardians, so Ohio could be the third state to welcome the world’s most popular sportsbook, after New Jersey and Colorado. Betfred, another large British operator, has agreed a deal with the Bengals, while the Cavs have linked up with Fubo, the online sports betting arm of fuboTV. However, Fubo recently revealed it was reassessing its plans and potentially looking for a partner rather than going it alone in the sports betting industry.

Licensing Process Gathers Pace

The Columbus Blue Jackets have tied up their deal with Fanatics Sportsbook. It will be the online sports betting arm of the popular online apparel retailer, led by former FanDuel chief executive Matt King. However, the sportsbook has not launched yet – rumors suggested it was in talks to buy Tipico, another European sports betting company, although nothing has materialized yet – so it is unlikely to be ready on January 1. FC Cincinnati has teamed up with SuperBook, the online sportsbook linked to the large retail book at Westgate Las Vegas. Betway and Prophet Exchange could also enter the market as second skin partners of Belterra Park and the Blue Jackets.

Additional sports betting apps were awarded standalone licenses. DraftKings, Parx, PlayUP, PointsBet, Tipico, Underdog Sports and WynnBET all gained approval. Further approvals are expected in the coming weeks. Ohio could quickly become the most competitive sports betting market in the country, ahead of Colorado and New Jersey, if the licensees launch in January.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission also approved 311 Type C applications, meaning 811 

retail sports betting kiosks have now been given the green light. Supplier licenses were awarded to GeoComply, GAN, SUZOHAPP and Sportradar. It means online sportsbooks in Ohio will be able to verify players’ locations and offer stats and live streaming.

Vanessa Hudgens Joins the Sports Betting Sector

FanDuel has emerged as the market leader in 13 of the 15 states it operates in, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois. It is likely to enjoy similar success in Ohio, but its principal rivals – DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook – are fighting hard to close the gap. On Thursday, BetMGM announced it has signed up Vanessa Hudgens as a celebrity brand ambassador in a bid to appeal to a new type of sports bettor.

Hollywood star Jamie Foxx typically serves as the face of the brand in commercials and on the site, but most of its brand ambassadors are former sports stars, such as Kevin Garnett, Wayne Gretzky, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Johnson and Jalen Rose. Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers is among the active athletes in the brand ambassador team. However, Hudgens represents a major diversion, and she could appeal to younger adults and female bettors.

Ongoing Evolution as an Entertainment Company

The actress, producer and singer found fame in the High School Musical series for her portrayal of Gabriella Montez. She has since appeared in a diverse array of films, including Bad Boys for Life, Spring Breakers and Tick, Tick… Boom! She also appears on Broadway in productions such as Grease, Gigi and Rent, while she has drinks and beauty lines.

Hudgens will appear in marketing campaigns, promotions and social media content for BetMGM’s sportsbook and online casino. “Vanessa Hudgens is extremely gifted and will be instrumental in BetMGM’s ongoing evolution as an entertainment company,” said Matt Prevost, chief revenue officer at BetMGM. “We look forward to the partnership and her support in our goal of reaching new audiences in unique and engaging ways.”

BetMGM recently debuted the first sportsbook at an NFL stadium. The BetMGM Sportsbook at State Farm Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona, is a two-story, 17,000 sq. ft. venue featuring sports betting kiosks, a grille and bar, concert hosting facilities and a variety of screens to watch big games. It is located on The Great Lawn at State Farm Stadium, and it is open on game days and non-event days.

“The BetMGM Sportsbook at State Farm Stadium is one of the most revolutionary additions an NFL stadium has seen in decades and unlike anything fans have encountered on game days,” said BetMGM chief executive Adam Greenblatt. “BetMGM shares the Arizona Cardinals' vision in pursuing new ways to break barriers and entertain fans.”

The NFL does not permit betting at in-stadium sportsbooks, so the Bengals did not apply for a retail license in Ohio, whereas the Cavaliers, Guardians, Blue Jackets and FC Cincinnati did. BetMGM and the Cardinals worked around this by opening the sportsbook in its own building, just outside the stadium.

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