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JACK Entertainment Launches Free To Play Sportsbook In Ohio

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • JACK Entertainment has launched a free to play sportsbook in Ohio.
  • JACK Entertainment is the parent company of the JACK Cleveland Casino and the JACK Thistledown Racino.
  • Ohio is in the process of implementing sports betting with a launch expected in early 2023.

Ohio is in the process of implementing sports betting and taking their sweet time to do so. They’re not really motivated to speed up the process since they’ve got until January 1, 2023 to get it up and running. Here’s the specifics of Ohio’s sports betting situation:

On December 8, 2021, the General Assembly passed House Bill 29, legalizing and regulating sports gaming in Ohio. The bill, which took effect March 23, 2022, allows sports gaming through licensed operators of online sportsbooks and brick-and-mortar establishments. The bill sets a comprehensive licensing and regulatory framework under the jurisdiction and rulemaking authority of the Commission. The bill also creates the Ohio sports gaming lottery, operated by the Ohio Lottery Commission through terminals at certain liquor permit establishments.

The bill sets January 1, 2023, as the date by which sports gaming must be approved to begin and requires that all forms of sports gaming be allowed to start accepting wagers on the same date.

For this reason, it’s difficult to get an accurate read on Ohio’s prospects for a workable sports betting ecosystem. They’ve done a few stupid things such as getting the state lottery involved and license limits (got to make those licenses valuable ‘political perks’). On the plus side, it sounds like it will be a reasonably competitive market and the licensing fees will be among the most reasonable in the US. The rules that have been drafted so far are essentially a bunch of politicians telling sportsbooks how to do their jobs. You’d think at some point a state will realize that they’re not ‘reinventing the wheel’ with sports betting and will just copy the regulatory framework of some state that’s doing it right. Laughably, Ohio’s sports betting framework is called the ‘Common Sense Initiative’. With very few exceptions (eg: Ontario) I’ve yet to see ‘common sense’ in the majority of sports betting regulations.

Long story short–at some point, Ohio will have sports betting. A few companies have already entered into market access agreements including WynnBET, Caesars Sportsbook, Fubu Sportsbook and Maxim Sportsbook. It’s now evident that JACK Entertainment will also be in the game. JACK Entertainment owns JACK Cleveland Casino and Jack Thistledown Racino and they’ve just launched a free-to-play sportsbook. They’ve got their betJACK app available in the Apple App Store and Google Play, and they’ve got a web based platform at www.betjack.com.

Of course betJACK is doing the charade that no one in the state of Ohio knows anything about sports betting, going so far as calling their free-to-play platform a ‘Training Camp’. We’ll return to this point later in the article:

betJACK Training Camp–because sports betting is completely new to the people of Ohio. Even in Steubenville.

Here’s what the betJACK press release has to say about that:

JACK Entertainment recently rolled out betJACK, a free-to-play sports betting app that caters to Ohio’s sports fans’ unbridled, passionate, and never-say-die mindset.  The Ohio-born betJACK app is available now as a Training Camp for Ohio fans who want to practice their skills with a free experience before real betting becomes available next year.  

So let’s get to the quotes. We’ll start with Brian Eby, President of JACK Entertainment, who mentions ‘Ohio’ three times in one short paragraph:

“This is a game changer for Ohio sports fans. From gridirons to 4-irons, hat tricks to hook shots, goal lines to line drives, betJACK is running up the score in Ohio. Jack Entertainment is Ohio’s gaming company.”

Adam Suliman, Vice President of Sports & Digital Gaming for JACK Entertainment, who only says ‘Ohio’ once but also euphemistically refers to it as ‘The Buckeye State’:

“We’re thrilled that betJACK is the only sportsbook app with real insight into the Buckeye State. We know how much Ohio fans love their local teams. They’ve been waiting to legally bet on sports here for years instead of having to drive across state lines. betJACK is finally giving them their shot.”

There’s not any legitimate validation that ‘the local angle’ works in marketing a sportsbook but everyone does it so I’ll let that part go. For the most part ‘innovation’ is a dirty word in the US gaming industry and that’s what we get. Let’s run back the first line of that paragraph with a bit of emphasis:

“We’re thrilled that betJACK is the only sportsbook app ****with real insight into the Buckeye State****.

So they have ‘real insight’ into Ohio but they’re going to pretend that ‘the Buckeye State’ didn’t at one point have more casinos than any state except Nevada. Steubenville, Ohio was the epicenter of gambling (and any number of other vices) in the state. Here’s what I said about Ohio awhile back:

Sports betting will do big business in Ohio–it has a strong gambling ‘pedigree’ (more about that in a moment) and is the 7th largest US state by population with 11,727,377 residents. They’ve got a larger population base than several very successful gaming jurisdictions including Michigan, New Jersey, Arizona, Indiana, Missouri and Colorado.

Ohio has been a great state for gambling dating back to when Steubenville had a reputation as a ‘wide open’ town that often served as a training academy for Las Vegas dealers and casino managers. It’s also the hometown of Dean Martin and there’s an annual festival commemorating this. Legendary Las Vegas bookmaker Jimmy ‘The Greek’ Snyder is also from Steubenville.

….but don’t take my word for it. Let’s hear from some Steubenville locals. In 2018, Robert Mann of Gaming Today reflected on how much this area had given to not only the gaming industry but to Las Vegas:

That’s because that small region of the country delivered to Las Vegas a significant number of individuals to deal blackjack and craps at Caesars Palace in its early years. Additionally, numerous natives of that part of the country (some now retired) continue to remain on the frontlines in Nevada casinos, especially in the world of race and sports, having heavily influenced the industry.

Among them are the retired Bert Osborne and his successor at the South Point, Chris Andrews. Others include South Point colleague Jimmy Vacarro, the late Robert “Muggsy” Muniz, Art Manteris, Johnny Spot, Jerry Ludt, Tom Blazek, Tommy Saber and many, many others.

Before I hang up my keyboard, which, I hope is far, far in the future, I’d love to compile a list of all the race and sportsbook employees and blackjack and craps dealers, for that matter, that over the years migrated here from Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

Mann spoke to his Gaming Today colleague Richard Saber–also from Steubenville–to get an understanding of the vibe in the town:

According to Saber, when growing up in Steubenville he never realized gambling was illegal. “One of the first things I remember is my father always taking Sunday off from his restaurant. We lived downtown and, along with brother Tommy, the three of us would walk down to what was called a “cigar store” and go in. I can still smell the cigar smoke, even now. Anyway, my dad would play a punch card and then we’d go into the back room.”

He continued, “What I loved about it was once you got in the back room, you were on a different planet. My dad loved to bet his $5 baseball parlay and that’s where he’d do it. They even had free sandwiches. We loved it.”

Stated quite frankly by Saber, “That’s how I learned about gambling as a six-year-old. I loved it.”

The thought here is most of the other Western Pennsylvania/Eastern Ohio boys had a similar experience. Saber even got a bit of the gambling bug from his mother, Mary, who booked the numbers while working as crossing guard at the high school. “The teachers who liked to play the numbers all bet with her,” he recounted.

Saber learned many of the basics of gambling on the arm of his father, including that it was the bookmaker who was driving the new Cadillac and the bettor, who just borrowed fifty cents from his dad that drove away in the beat-up Volkswagen.

Saber recalls as he got a little older, while betting the NFL on Sunday, even the policemen would pull up to the cigar store, make a bet or two, say hello to everyone and go back to work.

The entire article is well worth your time to read. The weekly print edition of Gaming Today is one of the things I miss the most about the days when Las Vegas was the epicenter of the sports betting industry. Today, they’re ‘online only’ but still serve up excellent content and news coverage.


So let’s quit pretending that no one in the various US states is knowledgeable about sports betting. To do so in Ohio is particularly disingenuous and condescending. It’s as if when Colorado legalized recreational cannabis they pretended that nobody in the state had smoked pot before. If anything ‘Ohio’s gaming company’ should be celebrating the state’s rich sports betting legacy. To pretend it doesn’t exist is an insult to the intelligence of Ohioans and to anyone that knows anything about the history of gambling in the United States.

I like what JACK Entertainment does and their sports betting platform looks excellent. They should do well in the Ohio market.

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