MGM's Ohio Racino Takeover Continues Busy Year

MGM's Ohio Racino Takeover Continues Busy Year

MGM is already one of the most well-known companies in American gaming. It’s about to become an even bigger deal in Ohio.

MGM Resorts International will operate Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park effective next year, the company announced last week. A company subsidiary purchased the property for $1 billion earlier this year and will now take over day-to-day operations from the former owners, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports.

The Rocksino is the state’s top-earning gambling property with $246.5 million in revenue last year, which is about 25 percent of the entire state’s total earnings.

Located about 20 miles south of Cleveland and 30 miles north of Akron, the facility is convenient to two major city centers in the seventh-most populated state in the nation. Though it doesn’t have table games like the state’s four commercial casinos, the 110-acre facility features a horse track and 2,300 slot machines.

And soon, maybe sports betting.

Ohio Considers Sports Betting

The Buckeye State was slow to embrace legalized gambling. Now it’s one of the nation’s top gaming states.

Ohio banned casinos for decades, allowing neighboring Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana to establish gaming centers that attracted customers from across the nation – and especially Ohio.

Lawmakers realized the missed revenue and economic benefits and pushed for casinos in the state beginning more than a decade ago. Voters agreed and passed a referendum in 2009 that allowed the first commercial casinos in the state. The state’s seven racinos are now garnering close to $1 billion in revenue annually.

Because of figures like that, support for sports betting hasn’t been nearly as slow moving.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a placeholder bill to consider sports betting for the 2019 legislative session. Legislators still have to resolve key details, including regulations, availability and tax rates, but the existing bill means elected officials will at least discuss sports betting when they reconvene in Columbus next year.

Actions in other state capitals may help spur on the debate.

Pennsylvania passed a sweeping gambling expansion bill last year and is poised to finally take its first legal sports bet sometime before the end of 2018. Kentucky lawmakers have aggressively pushed for a sports betting bill as well and is one of the most likely candidates to pass legislation sometime next year.

Along with moves by lawmakers in Indiana and Michigan, Ohio will face pressure to pass something itself or risk falling behind all its geographic neighbors.

Along with state tax revenues, MGM could be one of its biggest beneficiaries if sports betting passes into law.

MGM’s Busy Year Continues

Though the placeholder bill is intentionally short on details, lawmakers realize MGM will play a role.

As in other states, established gaming centers like the Hard Rock Rocksino are logical places to take bets. As it has with other properties with sports betting, MGM would undoubtedly jump at the chance if permitted to do so at its new Ohio location.

Sports bets in Ohio could be just one of many new opportunities for the company. It has been a driver of New Jersey’s new sports betting market, which has quickly jumped out to become the nation’s second largest behind only Nevada. It also designed a mobile sports betting app, giving it a foothold in the growing mobile wagering market.

Along with other casino and betting partnerships, the entertainment conglomerate is working directly with sports leagues. Earlier this year it announced a watershed affiliation with the NBA, which will give the company exclusive content, data and gaming opportunities.

It also will be the exclusive betting partners of the new Alliance of American Football. The upstart league has made gambling a major facet of its appeal as it looks to differentiate itself from the NFL.

All these factors and more reaffirm MGM as a powerhouse of the U.S. gambling industry – and a major player in its future growth.

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