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Sports Betting Station Takes Air in Cleveland Ahead of Expected Legalization

iHeart’s The Gambler is a sports talker with Vegas insights 

iHeartMedia is doubling down on the newly legalized sports betting action. 

In 2019, the media company launched its first gambling-themed format: Philadephia’s “Fox Sports 1350 AM, The Gambler.” iHeart is now taking its churn to Ohio, where it’s launching the same brand in Cleveland on the same frequency. 

The station plans to air information from Vegas Stats and Information hourly, as well as “programming offering betting guides, handicapping and betting strategies,” according to the press release. In addition to BetR Network’s “My Guys in the Desert,” traditional Fox Sports Radio shows are in the lineup. A Cleveland-specific show, “The Lombardi Line,” anchors the Gambler to its new town, since the program is hosted by former Browns GM Mike Lombardi.

However, in a recent RW article about the emerging format, Barrett Sports Media President Jason Barrett said of the original Philly Gambler: “They’re going to need more than a catchy name, one afternoon show and one national sports betting show if they want to own that identity. The path they’re taking won’t likely produce big ratings, but it should serve them well from a revenue standpoint,” 

Apparently iHeartMedia’s programmers either disagree with Barrett or aren’t shooting for ratings success in Cleveland. The second Gambler’s mode appears identical to the original’s: take a sports talk format and add some additional competitive flair. 

[Radio Gambles on Sports Betting]

iHeart handicappers must have a hot tip that the Buckeye State will soon approve the gambling bill currently at work in the state legislature. 

In the announcement, iHeartMedia North Ohio Region President Keith Hotchkiss said, “The Gambler is the future of sports radio. We are thrilled to bring this hot new format to the market, helping Clevelanders navigate the ever-growing world of sports wagering.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signalled his desire to approve sports betting in late 2019, but the legislature is still debating which agencies would have oversight and other regulatory details.

The Supreme Court legalized sports betting in 2018, and many states have taken steps to regulate and mainstream the practice. According to a November 2019 Axios article, 13 states already OKed placing money on a favorite team, and six others have passed a bill that is awaiting further action. 

The implications of both the legal and formats remain to be seen, but neither trend is likely to burn out soon.

Read more about radio’s efforts to capitalize on sports betting here.