Pubs and eateries across North Central Ohio have suffered from COVID complications for nearly three years, and Mike Zappa hopes sports betting will be the antidote.
“One of our biggest goals is to drive traffic,” the Crestline businessman said. “Hospitality is a tough business, so to drive traffic through sports betting is the focus.”
A new law will allow fans to wager on professional sports teams through kiosks at restaurants, bowling alleys and bars in the Buckeye State starting on New Year’s Day.
A complete list of businesses that will have their sports betting kiosks turned on by Jan. 1 has not been finalized by the Ohio Casino Control Commission, according to Jessica Franks, the commission’s communications director.
That’s because the process for approval is lengthy, the concept is revolutionary, and some owners are hesitant to jump in too soon.
“There’s a lot of locations out there that have the lottery that haven’t taken that second step,” Zappa explained.
Nonrefundable $1,000 application fee
To be considered for approval, businesses must meet criteria set forth by both the Ohio Lottery and the state’s casino control commission.
“Your local gas station is not eligible,” Zappa clarified. “It’s strictly an on-premise location.”
Zappa owns the Lorain Music and Vending Co., and many of his clients have asked him to guide them through the process of setting up sports betting in their establishments. But it’s a process much more extensive than installing a soda machine, ATM or video game.
The first barrier on the application is that the business carry an alcohol license that allows the beverages to be consumed on site.
Then, the for-profit company must already have a license to sell lottery in the establishment.
Owners who meet those requirements can select a Type-C sports gaming proprietor who will operate the kiosks, then submit an application to the casino control commission along with a nonrefundable $1,000 application fee
Those who wanted to ensure their business would be allowed to open sports betting by the first of the year had to have their applications submitted by Tuesday, Franks explained. Later submissions could still be approved, but a Jan. 1 opening would not be guaranteed.
As of Wednesday afternoon, several business across the region had applied to host sports betting kiosks.
In Mansfield, there’s Duke’s Bar, Horse Shoe Burger Co. and City Grille. In Ashland, applications were filed for O’Bryan’s and Wagon Wheel. In Wooster, just Triway Lanes.
That list is expected to grow nearly every day.
Leveling the playing field
Sports betting has become a reality in Ohio thanks to the passage of House Bill 29, which was cosponsored by State Sen. Mark Romanchuk, a Republican whose district includes Richland, Ashland and Medina counties, in addition to part of Holmes County.
He said the bill allowed online gambling as well brick-and-mortar betting sites for larger counties, but lawmakers wanted to make sure smaller businesses still had a way to take part.
“The purpose was to get down to the small guy,” Romanchuk said.
He said without the Type-C kiosks, his constituents would never have been able to earn money in an online betting world that he calls a monopoly.
“There’s no competition,” Romanchuk said. “They’ve essentially locked out the competition.”
He said it was important for lawmakers to establish a start date so that small, local businesses had the chance to start offering betting the same day as the large online betting companies.
“They were probably ready to go before the legislation was passed because they’re operating in other states,” Romanchuk said of the online betting sites. “We didn’t want them to come online first. We didn’t think that was exactly fair. We wanted to try and level that playing field.”
Kiosks will allow limited wagers
The idea of a kiosk is to allow fans to place fun wagers on games while they’re watching them on television, according to Danny Cross, managing editor of PlayOhio.com.
“Each Ohio bettor can only wager up to $700 in each calendar week across all sports betting kiosks,” Cross explained.
Betting is limited to: spread wagers (a bet on the outcome of a game against odds designed to level the playing field), over-under wagers (a bet on whether the game score will be higher or lower than projected), money-line wagers (a straight-up bet without any point spread where bettors predict the outright winner) and parlays (a single bet on two to four outcomes; each side must win to produce a winning ticket).
“Proposition and in-game wagers are not permitted on sports betting kiosks,” Cross said.
As of Wednesday, only 652 of the 1,254 businesses that had applied to host sports betting had been approved by the casino control commission.
Cross thinks there’s still plenty of time for establishments that have been preapproved by the lottery to receive permission from casino control to open betting by the start of the year.
“The commission made it clear today that it can process the kiosk applications quickly,” Cross said. “The retail and online sportsbook applications could very well need more time to evaluate — better to have the flexibility to take more after the deadline than the other way around, finding out later that you can’t get it all done by Jan. 1.”