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Sports betting legalization in Ohio opens opportunities for bars, bettors in Athens

Sports betting was recently made legal in Ohio, providing new hope and opportunities for the possibility of economic growth within the state. 

House Bill 29, which would regulate sports gambling as well as levy a tax within the state, was signed into law Dec. 22, 2021, by Gov. Mike DeWine, and it is expected to be effective Jan. 1, 2023. 

Carl Blalock, a sophomore studying journalism, said he believes sports betting should be legalized because, in his mind, it’s really not that different from the lottery. 

“I could spend ten bucks on a Powerball ticket and not have any luck,” he said. “I can spend 10 bucks betting on the Knicks, and I could make money off of that.”

Matt Cacciato, executive director of the AECOM Center for Sports Administration and director of the masters of sports administration program at Ohio University, said the legalization of sports betting is extremely retail-driven, especially considering the “massive” amounts of money to be made within the market. 

“In 2020, and keep in mind, we’re still kind of tabulating what 2021 is going to look like, there’s more than $21 billion wagered in the United States with legal sports betting,” Cacciato said.

Because of that, one of the main goals of legalization, Cacciato said, is increasing participation and interest and expanding the consumer market. 

“It's really just the industry as a whole … trying to legitimize and attract new customers,” he said. “You are seeing a lot of marketing expenditure to try to develop new customers.”

Blalock said he does not believe legalization would increase interest and participation. To him, legalization would expand the market but only to the people who are already involved with it. Instead of increasing the number of consumers within the market, he believes legalization will simply cause people who are already betting on sports to make more bets. 

Although sports betting may seem like a great money-maker on a national scale, Cacciato said, in areas such as Athens, there would not be much short-term financial gain. 

“For a long time, people were thinking that this might be administered by a Lottery Commission … That would obviously allow for significantly more proliferation at a much faster pace,” he said. “But as it stands right now, that is not the case. People have to have licenses, and they have to be registered, and they have to pay the license fee.”

Shawn Ritchie, one of the owners of Lucky’s Sports Tavern, said he may pursue sports betting within the bar, but because the license is still in its infancy, he is not sure how it will be operated and regulated. 

Blalock said that although he believes bars should have the opportunity to hold one of those licenses, he personally would much rather use an established betting site, such as BetMGM, FanDuel or DraftKings. 

In addition to garnering possible financial gains, the legalization of sports betting stands to impact gambling addiction. With an attraction of new customers comes an influx of people who find themselves addicted to gambling, but Cacciato said states who legalized sports betting also have ongoing consumer protection measures in place and really push for the advertisement of responsible betting. 

Cacciato said sports betting should not increase the likelihood for nefarious activity, like point shaving or poor performance motivated by some sort of prior arrangement.

“There’s a lot of thought that it will actually do the inverse,” Cacciato said. “Because of the legitimization, because of the amount of regulatory efforts coming into the space … there’s companies out there that are specifically focused on compliance and integrity.”

Blalock agreed, thinking that the legalization of sports betting will not cause any sort of foul play by athletes. 

“I mean, while it hasn’t been legal, sports gambling has been around for years and years and years,” Blalock said. “And with the exception of a few high profile events, such as the (White) Sox in the 1919 World Series … you really (haven’t) had things where players have thrown games for betting.”


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