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Legal sports betting opens in Ohio as clocks turn to 2023

Monday marks the first day a Cleveland pro sports team will be in action as fans in Ohio can put action on sports.

OHIO, USA — As the clocks struck midnight and 2022 turned over to 2023, the first legal sports bet was made in Ohio.

New sportsbooks at popular Northeast Ohio gambling sites like JACK Cleveland Casino and MGM Northfield Park have been preparing for this reality for more than a year. 

House Bill 29, signed into law by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, made sports betting legal in Ohio, and Ohioans wasted no time exercising that right as the new year opened.

"Tonight’s a very monumental moment for us. Not just for us, but for the state of Ohio. This means a lot for us, we’ve been surrounded by states that have been taking sports betting for quite some time now, so to be able to keep that money here in Ohio and for our state, which can do so much for us, it means a lot.” said JACK Cleveland Casino's Director of PR and Communications Aleksandra Breault.

Matt Buckley, President and COO of Midwest Group for MGM Resorts, sang a similar tune when talking about the opening of sports betting in Ohio, “It’s been exciting. We’ve seen it with MGM just across the border in Michigan, we’ve seen the new types of players that are coming in. We’ve got a younger group of customers that comes in. You can hear the energy, you can feel the energy, there’s a lot of excitement, so we’re looking forward to having that right here in Northeast Ohio.”

Now that sports betting is legal, that begs the question, who was the lucky bettor to place the first wager? 3News spoke with the man of the hour at MGM Northfield Park. His name is Matt Lewis.

“It was one of those very humbling feelings when you get the phone call, and I’m very honored to be selected to place the first bet here in the state of Ohio.”

It wasn't an honor he was expecting, but his name is written in history as the first bettor at MGM Northfield Park's new sportsbook, BetMGM. 

“I’ve always been wanting live sports betting here in the state of Ohio. I know it took a long time to get it here, but I think it’s going to do a lot of good things for the state, the economy. So for all of those that were involved in making this happen and getting this passed, thank you”

His bet? Something you don't see very often. A bet ON the Cleveland Browns. He took the Browns +2 to beat the Washington Commanders with a wager of $2023. Quite the first bet for BetMGM as Matt cashed out to the tune of $3,862.09 as the Browns beat the Commanders Sunday afternoon.

Over at JACK Cleveland Casino, the Chief Development Officer for Special Olympics Ohio Christine Hoyer was the first to place a bet through the betJACK sportsbook.

She placed $68 on the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the 2022-23 NBA Championship. A symbolic number for the year the Special Olympics organization was founded.

And finally, a "first" sports bet down in Cincinnati you have to see to believe:

Meanwhile, Monday will mark the first day a Cleveland professional sports team will be in action as fans can put action on sports. The Cavaliers, Browns and Guardians will each have a sportsbook located inside their stadium.

"We have almost 200 plus events here that happen over the course of a calendar year," said Nic Barlage, the CEO of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. "This sportsbook will be open for ticketed patrons as well as patrons that just want to come in off the street and check out a game and place a bet."

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