CINCINNATI — As the clock struck midnight, the wait was finally over for the Hard Rock Casino.
The windows opened, the kiosks went online, the app went live and with former Reds All-Star Pete Rose placing Ohio's first legal sports bet, the Hard Rock Sportsbook was open.
It’s been a four-year process for Ohio. After several false starts and failed bills, Gov. Mike DeWine signed legal sports betting into law in December of 2021, giving the state all of 2022, to prepare for its Jan. 1, 2023 roll out.
The Hard Rock Casino opted not to waste a second getting its in-person services going.
Property president George Goldhoff anticipates Ohio to be one of the largest sports betting markets in the country, with $8.8 billion in bets expected in its first year.
“Ohioans are crazy about their sports, they really love their sports and we think it’s going to be quite popular,” he said.
Among its neighbors, Ohio has been late to legalize sports betting. Only Kentucky has yet to do so as of 2023. Now, as a result of legalization, Goldhoff expects more money to stay in-state.
“The money that was being bet by Ohioans, whether it was in Michigan or Indiana, is all going to stay here in the state and the taxpayers are gonna benefit,” he said.
As for the first bet, Goldhoff believes Rose was the best choice.
A controversial figure in sports, Rose earned a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball due to sports gambling. He placed bets on the Reds to win while he was the team's manager.
On Sunday, he chose to bet on the Reds again, this time to win the World Series. It’s a long shot, but now simply a fan of the game, Rose said he will always choose to back his team.
“I don’t know a damn thing about odds,” he said after placing the bet. “Go Reds! Go Bengals!”
Bet Ohio estimates the state will generate more than $50 million in tax revenue from sports betting in its first year. Two percent of that revenue will go to funding treatment and prevention services for problem gambling.