High School SPIRE Institute Bids for Ohio Betting License

Opening a new lane

SPIRE Institute, a high school in Ohio, could revolutionize the gambling market pending the approval of its sports betting license application.

Ohio’s sports betting license application period closed last Friday, July 15, finishing with 22 Class-A applicants. Among the more popular were DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM, as a majority of the potential entrants have already secured partnerships with established businesses or sporting organizations in the state.

SPIRE is technically a sports-focused institution, it can circumvent some of the natural blockades

SPIRE’s inclusion in the list of interested parties came as a surprise, although it is technically legal; Ohio law states that sports organizations and retail gaming venues can offer sports betting, and since SPIRE is technically a sports-focused institution, it can circumvent some of the natural blockades.

SPIRE Institute the pioneer 

SPIRE Institute opened in 2009 under a different name; its goal was to appeal to the top athletes in the country and fast-track them to the top level in their respective disciplines.

Among the campus’ facilities are an indoor track, multi-sport outdoor stadium, two swimming pools, and indoor and outdoor courts and fields. Students can also access a 25,000 square-foot weight room, a two-floor dining center, and a health and wellness center.

The school’s offerings were ultimately great enough to attract LaMelo Ball, a future second-overall draft pick in the NBA draft, Rookie of the Year, and NBA All-Star. At the time, Ball had already played for his local Chino Hills High School, as well as professionally in Australia with the Illawarra Hawks, thus making his commitment to SPIRE a huge deal.

The athletics-centered program also employs some of the world’s leading athletes as ambassadors, including seven-time Olympic Gold Medalist Caeleb Dressel, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Tianna Bartoletta, and NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo. Their mission to become the leading source for athletic development has not come without investment, that much is certain.

Other applicants and deadlines

SPIRE’s bid to break into the betting market saw them partner with “Out the Gate,” a startup gaming operator. The company will use in-house trading and plans to accept “all action” to “lead the market on US sports.”

This decision follows that of several professional sports teams in the area, including the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, who partnered with Bally’s in their application, and the Cincinnati Bengals, who joined forces with Betfred. MLB’s Cleveland Guardians also joined the pool of applicants after linking up with Bet365, while the Cincinnati Reds unified with Underdog. The NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers went in with streaming provider Fubo for their entry.

MLS squads Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati partnered with Tipico and Circa Sports’ SuperBook, respectively, while the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets rounded out the list of big-league teams after they submitted a proposal with Fanatics.  

Application numbers rose quickly during the final days before the close-out date, despite worryingly low applicants in the weeks prior. 

Class-A operators can offer a full complement of online sports betting once granted licenses.

Class-A operators can offer a full complement of online sports betting once granted licenses. As a result, over 20 online betting platforms could launch in Ohio on January 1, 2023. 

The initial launch period comes with a 25-license maximum, per governing legislation, but there will be additional windows for other applicants, whether they be Class-A or not. 

“Applicants for these license types who do not make this application window are still eligible to apply but are not guaranteed consideration in time for a January 1, 2023 launch,” the Ohio Casino Control Commission said in an email Friday.

“This afternoon’s update should not be considered a final list of applicants for the first universal-start-date application window, as additional applications may come in this evening or may be postmarked today,” the Commission noted. 

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