This rendering shows the Caesars Sportsbook opening at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.Cleveland Cavaliers
The 10,000-square-foot Caesars Sportsbook, which will begin taking wagers at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in early January, is located on a busy thoroughfare in downtown Cleveland, where it will serve both Cavaliers fans inclined to kiosk during a game or betting windows, as well as waving would-be bettors drive by.
As one of eight Ohio pro teams granted access to retail sports betting licenses, the Cavaliers are poised for their biggest cash windfall ever, fueled by their prime retail location in a metropolitan area of 2 million and their standing as the only NBA franchises in the state. The state opens sports betting on January 1st.
Along with all of Ohio, which will be the fourth most populous state to allow online sports betting, the Cavs’ footprint includes western Pennsylvania, all of West Virginia and Kentucky. Based on that, and a large field of competitors drawn to the country’s most expansive licensing framework, industry insiders estimate the Cavs could generate nearly $10 million annually in revenue from the newly created sponsorship category, with the bulk coming from their 10th season – Annual contract with Caesars.
Aside from the Cincinnati Bengals, who say they are holding back on in-stadium betting due to NFL restrictions, all of the state’s pro teams have applied for retail licenses and allied themselves with sportsbooks. So does Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, host of the PGA Tour Memorial Tournament, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village in Canton.
They have all also benefited from access to nationwide mobile licenses, the rights to which they have sold to sportsbooks, usually on 10-year terms.
The resulting lineup of dance partners is dizzying — and unlike anything else.
The Cleveland Guardians have deals with BetFanatics and Bet365. The Cleveland Browns ended up at Bally. The Cincinnati Reds suspended BetMGM and Underdog, a fantasy operator planning to expand into sports betting over the next year. The Bengals have teamed up with Betfred. The Columbus Blue Jackets got BetFanatics and Prophet Exchange, a newcomer that started in New Jersey in August. The Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati have inked exclusive deals with Tipico and SuperBook, respectively.
And that’s just the offers tied to retail or online licenses. There will also be more traditionally structured sponsorships.
Along with Caesars, the Cavs ended up at UK-based Betway and recently closed Fubo Sportsbook, which struck the deal to gain access to the market and popularize its streaming service. With Fubo in the wind, the Cavs are now reviewing options for a replacement.
Most of these deals come from outside the circle of sportsbooks that have dominated other states, largely because these operators already had market access and retail capabilities. FanDuel, DraftKings and PointsBet have all secured online licenses via land-based casinos or parimutuel establishments. Barstool Sportsbook came through parent company Penn National, which operates casinos in Columbus, Toledo and Youngstown. Barstool will have retail at all three. FanDuel opens at Belterra Park Horse Track in Cincinnati.
The breadth of sports betting that has secured retail locations in Ohio is unparalleled.
In Cleveland, Fanatics has a deal to open at Progressive Field, while Bally’s has rights to the Browns’ FirstEnergy Stadium, where it will begin a betting lounge and hopes the NFL will eventually relax its restrictions. In Cincinnati, BetMGM will open at Great American Ball Park, while SuperBook, a fixture at Las Vegas’ Westgate Hotel for nearly three decades, has inked a deal to open its third retail location at FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium. The Blue Jackets also have a retail deal with Fanatics, while the crew has one with Tipico, best known as the official sportsbook of USA Today and Gannett.
There are also agreements for Parx to open a store at the Muirfield Village Golf Club and for BetRivers to open a location at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village.
“We expect this to be one of the most competitive states in the country,” said Matt Prevost, BetMGM’s chief revenue officer, who was granted market access through his Racino near Cleveland. “The combination of truly open access and a variety of different retail locations will mean that basically every operator with an interest in following the market will have a presence in Ohio.”
BetMGM plans to open at Great American Ball Park when the state starts Jan. 1, in a corner restaurant on left field accessible from a stadium court but not from the ballpark, per MLB rules. Elsewhere in the park, a major expansion is planned.
While most stadium and arena locations will not be open when the state launches, Ohio, when it does launch, will have the most sports betting options this side of Nevada, with betting kiosks installed in more than 1,000 bars, restaurants and grocery stores.
“Retail is so widespread and there are so many potential outlets. If you decide to invest in a retail location, you need to be aware of how many other avenues there are for people to place bets,” Prevost said. “The idea of putting a couple of kiosks in a small place doesn’t appeal to us because we assume these places are pretty common. So as a brand we look for venues that combine an experience with the transaction of placing a bet. A stadium or an arena will do that.”
Even before Ohio lawmakers landed on the framework they passed last December, Cavaliers management was holding exploratory talks with sportsbooks and working to allocate the anticipated new sponsor category in a way that would maximize revenue.
They had seen many of their peers in states where teams could host retailers opting for exclusivity, particularly in states where the deal also granted online licensing. But the Cavs figured they could generate more from two or three deals than one.
“We’ve had a lot of stimulating conversations with a lot of different gaming platforms,” said Nic Barlage, CEO of Cavaliers. “Retail. Mobile, cellular. Some just in the partnership way. At the end of the day, you really have to go into a prescriptive needs analysis with each of these partners to ultimately understand what’s important to them. For some, it’s really about top -of-funnel marketing. For others, it’s about having a retail presence. For some of them, it’s just about having access to a mobile license.”
BetMGM is planning a retail sportsbook in the Machine Room restaurant at Great American Ball Park.mlb / cincinnati red
From those talks, the Cavs landed on a strategy that put them in the category ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season, even before Ohio was legalized, through a deal with Betway that brought its brand to positions used during the airing of NBA games were visible to the dozen European countries in which it operates and began connecting with Cavs fans through a free-to-play game.
Retail went to Caesars, which had successfully operated a book in a similar, two-story footprint at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. Because Caesars had market access through its Columbus trotting track, the Cavs were able to fit that component into a 10-year deal with Fubo.
Caesars’ interest in Cleveland retail underscores the value it sees in a storefront — and particularly one in this location.
From a volume perspective, retail sportsbooks are dwarfed by their mobile counterparts, accounting for just 9% of the $73 billion processed by US sportsbooks in the 12 months ended August. But they are profitable. And Caesars, BetMGM and other operators see additional benefits.
“A lot of people are introduced to the brand,” said Dan Shapiro, senior vice president and chief development officer at Caesars Digital. “When people come to the arena for events, they will see us. We will have ambassadors there. Maybe they make a retail bet or decide to sign up for a mobile account. Or if they already have one, maybe reactivate it by depositing some cash in their account before heading to their seats. So there are a lot of pieces.
“When you layer the sponsorship with the Cavs and the assets that they have, I think it’s a great opportunity to reach fans and keep them too.”