Analysis: Will Ohio Sports Betting Leaders Look Like Neighboring States?

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Ohio sports betting

Sports betting in Ohio is going live, which leads to the next stage of the market launch: speculation of which book will lead the way.

One way to determine which Ohio sportsbooks will be most popular is to look at the surrounding states. Michigan was the last of Ohio’s four border states to launch sports betting in March 2020, meaning Buckeye State residents have had nearly three years to travel out of state in nearly every direction to place legal bets.

That likely means a lot of those bettors that made the drive to other states already have betting habits and their favorite operators where they keep the majority (or all) of their bankroll.

One main difference for Ohio is that there could be 20 or more online apps launching at the same time Jan. 1. Only time will tell if that is enough of a differentiator to disrupt the national US sports betting leaders that have a strong hold on Ohio’s surrounding states.

Pennsylvania launched mobile sports betting first

Among neighbors, it was Pennsylvania that launched mobile sports betting first, as the first online PA sportsbooks went live in May 2019.

That brought legal online sports betting within a manageable drive from Cleveland and Akron.

FanDuel launched at the end of July 2019, about four months before DraftKings. That first-mover advantage has not dwindled for FanDuel, which accounted for 40.2% of the online handle in November 2022, compared to 28.5% online handle share for DraftKings.

Indiana brought easier betting to western Ohio

Indiana launched next with its first online sportsbook going live in October 2019. That put legal sports betting a short drive away from Cincinnati and Dayton.

Both BetRivers and DraftKings launched the first online IN sportsbooks at the beginning of October with FanDuel launching later that month. It is either DraftKings or FanDuel leading each month, with DraftKings leading the way in the latest November results.

There was $415.8 million bet online in Indiana in November. DraftKings led with 34.6% of handle share as FanDuel followed close in second with 33.9% share. BetMGM was third at 10.7%.

West Virginia served southern Ohio

West Virginia was one of the first states to launch retail betting in September 2018, but it took almost two years for mobile betting to really kick off following the Miomni saga. That eventually made legal online betting easier for those in southeast Ohio that did not want to travel the extra distance to Pennsylvania.

Reports from the West Virginia Lottery do not break down results by operator but rather by land-based casino partner. Still, it is the partners of the two national leaders that rank first and second overall.

Hollywood Charlestown partners DraftKings, PointsBet and PENN’s own Barstool Sportsbook, accounted for 49.2% of online WV sports betting handle in the five weeks ending Dec. 3. The Greenbrier, which is partnered with FanDuel, BetMGM and Golden Nugget, was second in the period with 42.7% of handle share.

Michigan launched last

Online sports betting launched almost a year after retail Michigan sportsbooks, but there were still plenty of Ohioans making the drive considering Toledo is just an hour’s drive to Detroit.

FanDuel managed to grab a partnership with one of the three Detroit-based commercial casinos, which may have helped it gain more attention than the Bay Mills Indians-partnered DraftKings.

Michigan might be the closest comparison of the bunch to Ohio considering it also had a universal start date in January 2021. As of November, FanDuel accounted for 32.1% of online handle share with DraftKings second at 26.6%.

Could Columbus affect Ohio sports betting leader?

While bettors in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Toledo may already know with whom they plan to bet Jan. 1, the question of top Ohio sports betting operator could be wide open for Ohio’s biggest city.

The roughly 930,000 residents of Columbus are at least a 1.5-hour drive from any of Ohio’s borders, so it is unlikely those residents were making regular trips out of state to bet. That could mean an operator that is not a national leader could slide in and take some share based on local partnerships.

For example, hockey fans might decide to bet with Fanatics, which is the first-skin mobile partner of the Columbus Blue Jackets and will also run its retail sportsbook at the arena. Soccer fans, meanwhile, will see Tipico as the mobile and retail partner of the MLS‘s Crew.

Columbus could also be a Barstool-led market. Hollywood Columbus is located in the western part of the city near the I-270 loop and is just one of four PENN-owned properties in the state.