Ohio restaurants, bars scramble for sports betting kiosk licenses

·6 min read

Tavern 1888 in Ravenna's Main Street Historic District has offered Keno and other Ohio Lottery games for several years.

The tavern is ready to jump on board when legalized betting comes to Ohio next year.

"I just figured I'd add one more thing," owner Sandy Knotek said, explaining why the bar, which dates back to 1841, is seeking a license.

J.B. Abraham also doesn't want to be left out when sports betting becomes legal in Ohio.

The co-owner of Loby's Grille ― a sports bar in Jackson Township ― and other restaurants in Massillon and Canton is seeking licenses from the state to place sports betting kiosks in his businesses.

Bar and restaurant owners around the state are doing the same. As of Aug. 5, more than 1,100 businesses, including grocery stores, bowling alleys and golf courses, have been pre-approved by the Ohio Lottery Commission to install the kiosks when sports gambling becomes legal in the state on Jan. 1.

That means Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers fans can kick off the new year by placing a wager that day on their favorite team.

Tavern owners consider sports betting another entertainment option for customers, many of whom already play Keno, tip sheets or other Ohio Lottery games when they come in for a meal or a drink.

Loby's is a sports bar with a dozen televisions filling the wall above the bar. Customers watch games now and already use different phone apps to place bets, Abraham said. Soon they will be able to place those bets using a kiosk in the bar.

Ohio legislators legalized sports betting last year, after several years of debate. Restaurateurs and bar owners worked with different organizations to lobby legislators for a chance to participate. The effort worked. The new law opened sports betting for Ohio's casinos and other select sites, including restaurants, bars and other small businesses.

More on sports betting:Ohio sports betting at small businesses, like bars, may be curbed by Ohio Lottery rule

Lottery sales, liquor license a start

Getting licensed to host a sports betting kiosk, however, is complicated. Applicants must have a liquor license and offer lottery games, but the Ohio Casino Control Commission issues the license. It costs $1,000 to apply for the license, which is good for three years.

More than 340 businesses already have applied for the Type C sports gaming host license that will be issued by the commission. There is no limit on the number of locations around Ohio or within a county that can host a sports betting kiosk.

The state has limited the number of brick-and-mortar sports betting establishments in Ohio to 40, based on a county's population. Stark County can have one, and it's expected to be at the Hall of Fame Village being developed by Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment Co. There can be up to three sites in Summit County, as well as in Lucas and Montgomery counties. Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton counties can have up to five sites.

State officials are urging interested bars, restaurants and other retailers to file an application before Monday if they want to have their kiosk license approved for the Jan. 1 start date. Once the business has approval, it must contract with one of seven companies — up to 20 are allowed ― licensed as sport betting kiosk suppliers.

Eighteen businesses in Stark County, 18 in Summit County and four in Portage County have already applied for a license.

A draw for customers

If every eligible business in the Akron-Canton area applied, the region could quickly have more than 100 places that could be home to sports betting kiosks.

Several of the names are familiar, including some Acme grocery store locations, Jerzee's, Buffalo Wild Wings, John's Bar, Winking Lizard Tavern and Brubaker's Pub.

You might even be able to bowl and place a bet at the same time. Steve Jalboush, manager of Spins Bowl on East Waterloo Road in Akron, said he is already looking into what paperwork will be needed to add a kiosk.

Jalboush said offering sports betting pairs nicely with the business that caters to bowlers and sports enthusiasts.

"We are eager to offer the sports betting," he said. "We are working on it."

Steve Reinhart, whose family owns the Nuthouse in Perry Township, agreed.

"It just gives people another reason to come in and enjoy our food," he said. "It fits what we do."

Reinhart has filed a sports betting kiosk application for the Perry restaurant, but is waiting before he applies for licenses at the family's other restaurants, Cameo Grill and Old Timers Bar & Griddle, both in Massillon. He wants to see how sports betting is received before expanding. Keno and pull tab sales already are good at the location.

More on sports betting:HOF Village partners with Rush Street Interactive for sports betting operation

Still questions to answer

Although they are applying, business owners still have questions about how sports betting will operate. One concern is with paying winners.

Lottery games carry a $599 limit on payouts. If a lottery player's winnings are $600 or more, the amount will be taxed.

Restaurants, bars and other small businesses can pay only up to $599 on a winning ticket.

Different options include making an immediate cash payout, establishing accounts or using debits cards.

"I think they're still trying to work this out," said Tim Rupp, co-owner of Harmon's Pub on Tuscarawas Street W in Canton. The restaurant has seen a few big winners in Keno games, and the payouts haven't been a problem, he said.

There also are questions about the kiosks.

At Loby's, Abraham plans to create space for a separate sports betting machine the restaurant will get from a proprietor. Meanwhile, Rupp plans to have sports betting added to the "Touch and Win" machine already in Harmon's that dispenses Keno and other Ohio Lottery games. That way he doesn't have to find space for another kiosk.

The law passed last year by legislators states a self-service terminal "shall not accept wagers aggregating more than $700 in a calendar week from any one participant."

The law also outlines four types of bets that can made using kiosks. The machines will give bettors a chance on a straight "moneyline bet" for a team to win a game, or they can bet that a team will beat a point spread. Over and under bets will be an option, where the bet depends on the number of points scored in a game. Four-team parlay bets also can be made.

It's anticipated that wagers can be placed on common sporting events such as college football and basketball, the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, the PGA and NASCAR. Rules being drafted to cover sports betting call for approved events and wager types.

Jessica Franks, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Casino Control Commission, said the agency still is compiling the catalogue.

"There's still a lot of work to be done," she said.

Craig Webb of the Akron Beacon Journal and Jeff Saunders of the Kent Ravenna Record-Courier contributed to this report. Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or edd.pritchard@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @epritchardREP

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Ohio restaurants, bars scramble for sports betting licenses