Cincinnati Hard Rock Sportsbook's First Legal Bet Goes to - Who Else? - Pete Rose

"Charlie Hustle" and other Cincinnati sports celebrities will kick off legal sports betting in Ohio on Jan. 1.

click to enlarge Pete Rose will make the first wager in the Hard Rock Sportsbook at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1, 2023. - Photo: Kjunstorm, Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Kjunstorm, Wikimedia Commons
Pete Rose will make the first wager in the Hard Rock Sportsbook at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1, 2023.

Sports betting finally is coming to Ohio, and a Cincinnati sports celebrity has become the obvious choice to place the first bet.

Former Cincinnati Reds player and manager Pete Rose will lead the festivities in the Queen City, ringing in the new year at the upcoming Hard Rock Sportsbook, the Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati's betting facility. Rose will place the venue's first legal bet just at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, Ohio's universal start date for legal online and in-person sports gaming.

Other Cincinnati sports personalities will join Rose in opening the venue, including former Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman, former Reds pitcher Tom  Browning, newly announced Reds Hall of Fame 2023 inductee Bronson Arroyo, track-and-field Olympian Mary Wineberg, former Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Muñoz, former Bengals running back Ickey Woods and others. The Hard Rock Sportsbook will feature 33 betting kiosks and betting windows, media materials say.

Hard Rock has been rolling out Sportsbook venues across the country, including in Indiana and Tennessee.

Legalizing gambling in Ohio

It's been a long road to legal sports betting in the Buckeye State. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court said that individual states were permitted to approve such gambling. That launched a flurry of proposed bills in Ohio, most of which saw a number of delays and changes. But in 2021, the state's House of Representatives and Senate approved HB 29, and Gov. Mike DeWine signed it into law that December. The bill that legalizes and regulates sports betting took effect in March, and all forms of gaming will begin on Jan. 1.

Through the approved bill, sports gaming in Ohio will be permitted through "licensed operators of online sportsbooks and brick-and-mortar establishments," according to the Ohio Casino Control Commission. Such businesses and services must apply for licensing and submit compliant plans for their facilities, equipment, house rules, employee requirements and more. Final plans and equipment verifications are due to the commission by Nov. 2, and all approved gaming service providers/venues simultaneously can start accepting wagers on Jan. 1.

Pete Rose's history with sports gambling

Rose's involvement with the launch of the Hard Rock Sportsbook likely comes as no shock to local sports fans.

Many baseball experts agree that under normal circumstances, Rose would be a lock for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. According to Rose's website, he owns Major League Baseball records for the most career hits, games played, at-bats and hitting streaks of 20 or more games, among others. "Charlie Hustle" also had played 500 games each at five different positions: first base, second base, third base, left field and right field.

He was part of the "Big Red Machine" of the '70s – the Cincinnati Reds era that earned the team multiple division and league titles and two World Series wins. Rose went to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1979 and then to the Montreal Expos. He returned to Cincinnati as a player-manager from 1984-1986, retiring as a player in 1986.

But it was Rose's solo manager stint that would do the slugger in. In 1989, MLB attorney John Dowd released a report and evidence alleging that Rose had gambled on baseball games, including while managing the Cincinnati Reds. According to MLB rules, managers, players and anyone in key positions are prohibited from betting on baseball in any way.

For years, Rose insisted that he did not bet on or against the Reds or any other MLB team and filed multiple lawsuits to stop Dowd's investigation. MLB placed Rose on the league's permanent ineligible list on Aug. 24, 1989. Rose later applied multiple times to have various MLB commissioners reinstate him, but he continually has been denied, with commissioner Rob Manfred saying in 2015 that Rose did not have "a mature understanding of his wrongful conduct."

Cooperstown also barred him from enshrinement in 1991, despite the numbers he'd put up as a player. As with the MLB, Rose petitioned the National Baseball Hall of Fame to consider him for inclusion but has been turned down.

In 2004, Rose finally admitted that he had, indeed, gambled on baseball.

Rose was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum in 2016.

Pete Rose on statutory rape allegations: "It was 55 years ago, babe"

On Aug. 7, Rose was in Philadelphia as the Philadelphia Phillies honored the 1980 World Series championship team at Citizens Bank Park. Rose had played for the Phillies 1979-1983, helping them to multiple division and league titles in addition to the Series win.

Rose received a long standing ovation during his introduction, according to reports. In 1989, Major League Baseball banned Rose for life for betting on the Cincinnati Reds as a manager, so it was the first time he'd been on the Phillies' field since being ousted.

He didn't exactly endear himself to reporters, however.
Alex Coffey, a reporter who covers the Phillies for the Philadelphia Inquirer, shared on Twitter what her exchange with Rose was like during the media briefings at the game. She said she had asked Rose if he thought his "presence here sends a negative message to women," given the allegations that he had initiated a sexual relationship in 1973 with a girl who was younger than 16 years old. As it is now, the age of consent in Ohio at the time was 16 years old. The Ohio Revised Code permits adults to have "sexual contact" with people as young as 13 years old as long as those adults are fewer than four years older than the other person; Rose would have been around 32 years old at the time, so sexual contact with a minor would have been considered statutory rape.

In 2017, court documents showed that Rose had filed a defamation suit against Dowd, MLB's attorney who had alleged that Rose had committed statutory rape. Among the ensuing documents was a sworn statement from a woman who said she and Rose had had sex before she turned 16 in the '70s, both in Cincinnati and beyond Ohio's borders. Rose eventually admitted that he and the girl had sex, but only after she turned 16, he said. The suit was settled and dismissed later that year, but not before Rose lost his Fox Sports commentator gig and his induction into the Phillies' Wall of Fame was canceled.

"No, I’m not here to talk about that. Sorry about that. It was 55 years ago, babe," Rose told Coffey in August.

Rose dismissed other media questions about his alleged involvement in repeated sex crimes. Coffey said that a reporter from the Associated Press asked Rose about his interaction with Coffey, with Rose replying, "Who cares what happened 50 years ago?"

Coffey said that Rose – or one of his representatives – later went into damage control mode, offering to sign 1,000 baseballs for her if she was "offended" by what he'd said.

Through PR representatives, CityBeat asked the Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati for thoughts about Rose's standing with MLB, about the statutory rape allegations and about his treatment of Coffey. This is the Hard Rock's statement in full:
On January 1st, as we open the Hard Rock Sportsbook, we celebrate many of Cincinnati’s favorite athletes who made an impact on their team or sport. Pete Rose is one of the many sports icons who will join us on this momentous occasion.

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