As you enter JACK Cleveland Casino, located in the heart of downtown Cleveland, you can’t help but notice a section of the first floor is sectioned off behind a huge white wall.
What exists behind the wall is an area that’s under construction and is being transformed into the casino’s sportsbook. It’s a buildout of a place where JACK Cleveland officials will cater to plenty of patrons who have already expressed excitement for one day being able to walk into the sportsbook and place a wager.
Adam Suliman, vice president of online Gaming at JACK Entertainment, is overseeing the construction and management of the sportsbooks at JACK Cleveland Casino and JACK Thistledown Racino, which is located 11.2 miles to its southeast in North Randall.
“We have two retail sportsbooks that are under construction — JACK Cleveland and JACK Thistledown — that are nearly done, and we’re pretty excited to roll those out to folks in the Cleveland area here in the next couple months,” Suliman said.
There is optimism that sportsbooks may attract additional customers to the casino and racino. Suliman suggested sports fans attending events in downtown Cleveland could spill over to the sportsbooks before and after games.
“I think the sportsbook adds a whole other reason for folks to be able to hang out and enjoy themselves,” Suliman told OH Bets. “We see a lot of traffic before the games and after the games. So, the idea [is] that customers could go and enjoy a game, come back to our property, grab a bite to eat, and maybe catch the afternoon games in the sportsbooks that we’re building. I think that’s a compelling reason to visit our property. We certainly hope it is.”
Limited description of sportsbooks
The first day for wagering on sports in Ohio will be Jan. 1, the universal launch date set by the Ohio Casino Control Commission.
In the meantime, work takes place in secret behind a huge wall on which “betJACK OHIO’S SPORTSBOOK IS COMING” is written. JACK Cleveland Casino’s sportsbook will take up about 6,400 square feet of space and JACK Thistledown Racino’s sportsbook will be smaller, occupying about 4,400 square feet, but Suliman said their look is to be a surprise until they’re ready to welcome patrons.
“I think we’re going to keep that close to the vest for a couple of reasons,” he said. “I think the primary reason is a lot of our competitors in this space are not done building their properties and they’re not nearly as far along as we are. So, that’s one reason.
“Two, I don’t really want to spoil the surprise. When we unveil products at our casino and in our racino, we tend to do so in a manner that is to surprise and sort of delight our customers. So, that’s what we’re going to do here. We’ll keep some of the finer points of our property close to the vest, until it’s time to show the public.”
It is expected that the Cleveland-based properties will provide a welcoming atmosphere, in particular, for Cleveland Guardians, Cavaliers, and Browns fans.
“Most of our bars and restaurants are very high quality and the sportsbooks are going to be no different,” Suliman added. “We have massive video walls and very, very high-end audio and visual experience. The furniture and fixtures inside that space are going to be top-notch. So, we’re really excited about it.”
betJACK considered part of sportsbook buildout
Based upon Ohio’s new law, a total of 40 brick-and-mortar sportsbooks can be built across the state. There is a limit to the number of sportsbooks that can be constructed in a county based upon population and economic data, according to the Ohio Casino Control Commission. Cuyahoga County (Cleveland area), Franklin County (Columbus area), and Hamilton County (Cincinnati area) are the largest counties by population and are eligible to have up to five brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.
JACK Cleveland and JACK Thistledown will be two of the sportsbooks in Cuyahoga County. The Guardians, Browns, and Cavaliers have their own plans for retail sportsbooks as the other three brick-and-mortar facilities in the county.
The two JACK Entertainment properties will utilize betJACK, which is JACK Entertainment’s own online and mobile sports betting platform, as their management services provider. Currently, betJACK is a free-to-play sports digital sports betting platform launched in February for people to try sports betting without being required to pay. The plan is for betJACK to become a real sports betting platform in the Buckeye State when sports betting is launched on New Year’s Day.
.@JACKThistledown is prepping for sports betting to go live on January 1st! Wanna work with our @betJACK Sportsbook Manager, Bob? (Bob is really cool, you will have fun working with Bob).
Apply now & come to Thistledown Tuesday 9/27 between 10am-5pm: https://t.co/VyArv63Y8r pic.twitter.com/SjYxwnY8nO
— JACK Entertainment Jobs (@JACKEntJobs) September 24, 2022
It’s all been part of building a local brand for sports betting that will be considered as unique to Cleveland as are JACK Cleveland Casino and JACK Thistledown Racino, according to Suliman.
“This building a sports betting platform and product is not for the faint of heart,” he said. “It’s difficult. Fortunately for us, we have an organization that’s very forward thinking and we started working on this stuff about 24 months ago, or maybe a little bit longer when I started working on it.
“We’ve had time to really focus on finding the best quality product for our customers, in terms of the [playing] experience. We’re just trying to make it easy for customers to understand how these products work, so they can enjoy them.”
With less than 100 days remaining before New Year’s Day, JACK Entertainment isn’t only working to complete the physical sportsbook buildouts. The Cleveland-based gaming company is focused on filling nearly 100 positions for its Ohio sports wagering team, according to Suliman. Positions are listed on the JACK Entertainment job board for the retail sportsbooks and for the mobile platform.
Until Jan. 1, the huge wall inside JACK Cleveland Casino with “betJACK OHIO’S SPORTSBOOK IS COMING” posted remains a reminder that there’s still more work to be completed before those first sports bets are placed.