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'Time will tell': Ohio businesses hope for boost from sports betting despite early challenges

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Posted at 5:43 PM, Jan 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-30 17:43:11-05

CINCINNATI — It’s been about one month since sports betting was legalized in Ohio. Local bars and restaurants approved to accept bets were expecting a business boost, but some owners and managers say it hasn’t materialized exactly as they imagined.

“It hasn't done as well as I thought it might, overall,” said Billy Watson, who owns Kitty’s Sports Grill in Downtown Cincinnati.

Watson said he thinks many bettors are instead turning to mobile apps where they can place bets on their phones.

“I'm sure you've seen the ads on social media, on television, on the radio,” he said. “You know, ‘Sign up with us and get a free $200 bet. Sign up with us and you get free, you know, four $25 bets.’ They all are giving away something.”

He hopes when that slows down, bettors will turn to kiosks in person, like at his bar.

“If you're somebody that's got several different bets across the board on different games, you can watch them all here,” he said.

Whether someone bets on their phone or at the bar’s kiosk, Watson said it’s been good for business.

“You're more apt to stay till the end of the game, so you're going to eat and drink while you're here.”

He’s even seen customers coming in from Kentucky to bet on games.

In Corryville, Martino’s on Vine saw delays in getting its sports betting kiosk up and running.

“It was a little frustrating,” said manager Marty Angiulli. “We were hoping to be up January 1.”

The company that hosts the betting on the kiosk at Martino’s delayed its software rollout. It was finally downloaded on Jan. 29.

RELATED | Not all aspects of Ohio sports betting launch rolled out on time

Despite the delay with the kiosk, Martino’s was still able to take bets at the bar.

“People were hesitant to give their phone to us to bet, so they really wanted the kiosk,” Angiulli said. “Instead of giving us their phone, they drove the extra few minutes and went to a casino, so they can do the sports betting through a kiosk.”

Now that the kiosk is running, he’s hopeful betting picks up. In turn, he thinks that could boost business.

“Instead of drinking one or two beers, maybe they have three or four because their game goes into overtime or it's a nail-biter,” he said.

Both Watson and Angiulli are hopeful word will spread and betting will increase.

“It's still so new,” Watson said. “I mean, we've only been up and running since January 1. I think a lot of people still don't realize it.”

Angiulli said it’s too early to tell how much business could be boosted.

“Time will tell,” said Angiulli. “Hopefully this is great for the bars that have it and for everyone and hopefully it's successful.”

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