Ohio Lottery Director Pat McDonald Unexpectedly Resigns 

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General view of fans before the Cincinnati Reds against the Pittsburgh Pirates game on Opening Day in Cincinnati, Ohio. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP.

The Ohio Lottery Commission is looking for a new leader. Director Pat McDonald abruptly resigned, citing undisclosed medical reasons. What does this mean for Ohio sports betting?

Not an Easy Shoe to Fit

According to the governor’s office, he informed Gov. Mike DeWine’s chief of staff, Stephanie McCloud, in a two-sentence email: “This is to notify you that I am retiring from my position as Director of the State of Ohio Lottery Commission effective today, April 12, 2023, due to medical reasons. It’s been an honor to serve the people of Ohio.”, McDonald wrote.

McDonald oversaw a $4 billion operation that included monitoring sports betting via kiosks at hundreds of taverns and other businesses across the state, separate from mobile and retail betting controlled by the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

The Commission also regulates the video lottery terminal operations at the Buckeye State’s seven racinos. The Ohio Lottery conducts drawings using tickets sold by almost 10,000 stores and shops.  

McDonald’s Retirement Is Surprising

According to Cleveland 19 News, McDonald has been a vital part of lottery operations in Ohio for more than 16 years. He took over as Director nearly four years ago after serving as a member and long-time chair of the Ohio Lottery Commission.

His retirement comes at an inopportune time for the Commission. The agency is preparing to rebid its lucrative central gaming system contract, worth more than $90 million every two years, and is seeking to resolve a long-running standoff over the state’s adoption of internet-based lottery gambling, or iLottery.

Michelle Gillcrist was appointed as an interim replacement. She is the governor’s aerospace and defense liaison and northeast Ohio regional liaison.

Sports Betting Kiosks Got Off to Rough Start

The Ohio Lottery picked Intralot, a Greek company, to handle its sports betting kiosk business, but the rollout was slow and frustrated many business owners who were adding them

Intralot manufactures full-size lottery machines as well as kiosks that are ideal for sports betting, the GameKiosk and GameStation Betting. The GameKiosk is the smaller of the two terminals and has a more modern appearance, but both have dual high-definition displays, making them the only dual kiosk(s) serving lottery and sports betting in the nation.

Intralot’s sports betting platform is called SportsBet Ohio. Despite the delay, businesses licensed to add the betting kiosks were able to take bets using a QR code system on individual users’ phones. There is no indication that the trouble with Intralot had anything to do with McDonald’s resignation.

Ohio Sports Betting Is Big Business

Whoever takes over as the new Director at the Ohio Lottery will have a lot on their plate. Sports betting in Ohio is big business.

In February, for example, sports betting brought in nearly $83 million in revenue to operators, but the vast majority of sports betting in Ohio is done online. Ohio’s 17 online sportsbooks took in nearly 97% of all the money bet on sports in February.  

On top of that, the state’s racinos generated more than $125 million in revenue and broke the record for monthly revenue in March. It’s also the fourth consecutive month of revenue increases. All racinos added on-site sportsbooks when legal sports betting launched in January.

And the numbers aren’t expected to go down anytime soon. With the Cleveland Guardians and Cincinnati Reds baseball seasons starting in April, the Cleveland Cavaliers playoff run getting underway,  and The Masters Tournament, Ohio bettors have plenty to pick from.