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Will Ohio sports betting launch ahead of schedule? Don’t bet on it

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As anticipation builds for Ohio sports betting to officially launch on Jan. 1, there’s been a growing chorus advocating for the state to push that date up one day to Dec. 31 – allowing eager college football bettors to wager on Ohio State’s playoff semifinal matchup on New Year’s Eve.
Doing so would likely generate millions of dollars for the more than dozen sportsbooks – including BetMGM, Caesars, and FanDuel – who are expected to open their doors in the Buckeye State once sports betting is legal and operational statewide.
So, can we expect Ohio regulators to grant bettors and books alike an early New Year’s present? Don’t bet on it.
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Last week, Matt Schuler – the executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission Executive Director – reaffirmed that the state had no plans to push up the legally mandated start date of Jan. 1, which will come just hours after the Buckeyes take the field against top-seeded Georgia in the College Football Playoff.
That’s been the story all along for Ohio, which has long dragged its feet to enact legislation that set the stage for legal sports betting more than a year ago.
No rush for Ohio sports betting
In December 2021, Ohio legislators quickly came together to introduce House Bill 29, which mandated that the state launch sports betting no later than Jan. 1, 2023 – which, at the time, was more than a year away.
When Gov. Mike DeWine signed HB 29 into law two weeks later, many hoped the rollout would come much sooner than that deadline, perhaps even ahead of the start of football season in September. Of course, that never came to fruition, as the state had yet to even approve its first betting licenses by the time the Buckeyes kicked off their season on Sept. 3.
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Then Ohio State ripped off yet another sensational season to book its third trip to the playoffs in the last four years. And, in a bitter twist for in-state sportsbooks, its semifinal matchup against defending champion Georgia was scheduled just four hours before the long-awaited kickoff date for legalized gambling across Ohio.
Silver lining for Ohio sportsbooks
There’s still some hope for sportsbooks to cash in on the playoff bonanza, even with an early launch date unlikely at this point.
If Ohio State can manage to knock off Georgia – which is a consensus 6.5-point favorite to reach the title game – it could set up a potential rematch with archrival Michigan, which is also a heavy favorite to beat TCU (+8) in the other semifinal on Dec. 31.
The betting handle of that game alone would more than offset any theoretical losses from the delayed launch and could end up as one of the most-bet sporting events of the year … until the Super Bowl likely dwarfs it a month later. Similarly, that contest could draw unprecedented betting activity if the Bengals somehow manage to repeat their Cinderella run from last year and make it back to the big game.
Read more about Ohio sports betting
How to bet on college football after Ohio’s launch
Which states are next to legalize sports betting?
Still, don’t hold your breath on sportsbooks taking any bets before Ohio State’s semifinal contest. Despite endless internet rumors and even direct pleas from stakeholders, state officials seem locked into New Year’s Eve parties leading into the long-awaited launch of Ohio sports betting – which could come mere minutes after the conclusion of Ohio State’s football season.

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