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Multiple sportsbooks fined in Ohio

6 Jan 2023

Although sports gambling in Ohio just launched at 12:01 a.m. on 1 January, a few sportsbooks already find themselves in trouble with the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

The Commission announced Wednesday, 4 January, that it intends to fine Penn Interactive $250,000 after its affiliate Barstool Sportsbook hosted its college football show in November at the University of Toledo. In doing so, Barstool violated the state’s mandate against promoting sports gambling on a college campus as there was no way to tell if everyone in attendance of the event was of legal sports wagering age.

Yesterday, the Commission notified BETMGM, LLC (BetMGM), American Wagering, Inc. (Caesars) and Crown OH Gaming, LLC (DraftKings) that it intends to take administrative action against them for violations of Ohio law and administrative rules pertaining to advertising and promotions.

“The sports gaming industry has received multiple reminders of the rules and standards for advertising and promotions, yet continues to disregard Ohio law. These repeated violations leave the Commission no choice but to pursue administrative action to bring operators into compliance,” said Matthew Schuler, Executive Director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission. “The Commission takes responsible gambling seriously – and expects the industry to value the same.”

BetMGM, Caesars, and DraftKings – or their affiliate marketer – all ran sports gaming advertisements on several platforms that violated provisions in both Ohio law and the Commission’s rules that require sports gaming advertisements to clearly and conspicuously contain a message designed to prevent problem gambling as well as a helpline number to help access resources.

Advertisements for BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook lacking the appropriate responsible gambling messaging appeared after the Commission issued explicit guidance on the matter, on 30 December, and directed all operators to immediately ensure that their advertising was compliant.

In addition to ads lacking the appropriate responsible gambling messaging, all three companies also advertised promotions or bonuses described as “free” or “risk-free” when patrons were required to incur a loss or risk their own money to obtain the promotion. Commission rules on promotions and bonuses (Ohio Adm Code 3775-16-09(D)) prohibits the use of the word or phrase “free” or “risk-free” in sports gaming promotions where a patron must spend their own funds to obtain the promotional value.

The Commission is seeking a $150,000 fine from each company as well as other remedial action to ensure personnel are trained in all applicable laws, rules and policies relevant to sports gaming advertising and promotions.

This all comes on the heels of the Commission notifying Crown OH Gaming, LLC (DraftKings) last week that it intends to take administrative action against the company for violating Ohio’s sports gaming advertising rules.

In November, DraftKings mailed approximately 2,500 advertisements directly addressed to individuals under the age of 21. The ads violated provisions in both Ohio law and the Commission’s rules that prohibit sports gaming advertisements from targeting those under the age of 21.

“The Commission has been very clear about the rules and standards for sports gaming advertising with the industry, and are disappointed with the lack of compliance we have seen despite reminders,” said Schuler. “While we do not take administrative action lightly, DraftKings’ conduct in this case warrants the Commission’s intervention to ensure the integrity of sports gaming.”

In addition to requiring DraftKings to implement new procedures to ensure that marketing materials are not directed at anyone whose age has not been verified, the Commission is seeking a $350,000 fine.

DraftKings has the right to a hearing and due process. Ultimately, the Commission will vote on any action taken against DraftKings in a public meeting. Fines levied by the Commission regarding sports gaming are deposited into the Sports Gaming Revenue Fund.
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