Ohio Officials to Consider SPIRE Institute’s Sports Betting Applications on Wednesday

SPIRE Institute, a northeastern Ohio sports complex that hosts youth athletic events along with a “sports performance training and education academy” for high school and post-secondary students, will have its sports betting license applications reviewed by the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) at its meeting Wednesday.

SPIRE Institute Aerial
An aerial shot of SPIRE Institute and Academy in Geneva, Ohio. SPIRE’s application to host an online sports betting app and a retail sportsbook will be heard by the Ohio Casino Control Commission on Wednesday. (Image: SPIRE Institute/Facebook)

Geneva, Ohio-based SPIRE, located about 40 miles northeast of Cleveland, filed to host both an online sports betting operator and a retail sportsbook in July. The 800-acre campus right off Interstate 90 features world-class indoor and outdoor venues. The academy serves as a training ground for athletes seeking to play in college and beyond. Its most-notable attendee is NBA guard LaMelo Ball.

Besides hosting events for elite-level athletes at the high school, collegiate, Olympic, and Paralympic levels, SPIRE also hosts an array of basketball and soccer leagues for both youth travel teams and adult recreational players.

Days after SPIRE applied, Jonathan Ehrenfeld, the institute’s managing partner, told Casino.org that if approved for a retail sports betting license, its sportsbook would be operated off campus with strict security guidelines in place to ensure no one under 21 was able to wager.

The sports betting law passed by Ohio lawmakers in December 2021 gave preference to the state’s casinos, racinos, and professional sports franchises. Legislators, though, also wanted to encourage other Ohio businesses, especially those that attract visitors to the state, to apply for licenses.

Most Proprietors Already Approved

According to information from the OCCC, SPIRE is one of 23 companies to apply for a “Type A” proprietor license, which would allow it to host an online operator. SPIRE is also one of 27 to apply for a “Type B” proprietor license, which would allow it to host a brick-and-mortar sportsbook.

Through its last meeting on November 2, the commission has given conditional approval to 21 of the 23 Type A proprietor applicants. SPIRE and Robert L. Stark Enterprises, which applied last month, are the only ones that haven’t been approved by the OCCC. The commission has also conditionally approved 20 of the 27 Type B proprietor applicants.

SPIRE’s gaming partner, Out the Gate, has also not yet been approved. However, the commission hasn’t approved as many operators as it has proprietors.

OCCC Director of Communications Jessica Franks told Casino.org that all applicants will go before the commission. Should commissioners deny a license, the applicant would have the right to request an appeal before an independent hearing examiner. That individual would then prepare a report for the commission to act on.

Fanatics, Betr Also on OCCC Agenda

SPIRE is the only proprietor scheduled to go before the commission at the OCCC’s 10 am meeting Wednesday in Columbus. Commissioners will, however, also consider other sports betting applicants at that time.

Fanatics, Betr, Parx Interactive, and Gamewise are the operators the OCCC will consider for conditional approval on Wednesday. All four seek to operate online apps in Ohio. Fanatics also seeks to operate brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in partnership with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Cleveland Guardians.

Elys Gameboard Technologies and Gold Rush Amusements will also be considered for Type C licenses. If approved, those companies could install kiosks at approved lottery retailers across the state. Four other companies – Ubet Ohio, Intralot, Betskybox, and betIGG – have already been conditionally approved. J&J Ventures also has applied for a kiosk license.

More than 800 lottery retailers have been approved to install kiosks in bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, golf courses, and other venues across the state.

Applicants that applied before the July 15 deadline are guaranteed to start as early as 12:01 am ET on January 1, provided the commission approves them and receives the paperwork needed for licensure on time.

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