Ohio Becoming Biggest, Baddest Sheriff In U.S. Sports-Betting Regulation

January 6, 2023
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Ohio did not accept its first legal sports wager until New Year’s Day, but after levying hefty fines on Thursday against three prominent operators, the Buckeye State is swiftly establishing itself as perhaps the most relentless enforcer of regulations among sports-betting states.

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Ohio did not accept its first legal wager until New Year’s Day, but after levying hefty fines on Thursday (January 5) against three prominent gambling companies, the Buckeye State is swiftly establishing itself as perhaps the most relentless enforcer of regulations among sports betting states.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) issued notices to BetMGM, Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings that it will seek $150,000 fines from each company for running advertisements which did not “contain a message clearly and conspicuously designed to prevent problem gambling as well as a helpline number to help access resources.”

“The sports gaming industry has received multiple reminders of the rules and standards for advertising and promotions, yet continues to disregard Ohio law,” OCCC executive director Matthew Schuler said in a statement announcing the violations.

“These repeated violations leave the commission no choice but to pursue administrative action to bring operators into compliance,” Schuler said.

“The commission takes responsible gambling seriously — and expects the industry to value the same.”

The OCCC also proposed a $350,000 fine for DraftKings on December 30, accusing the company of sending about 2,500 advertisements directly addressed to individuals under the age of 21.

“DraftKings is committed to the highest standards of consumer protections and responsible gaming. We do not comment on pending regulatory matters,” DraftKings said Thursday via email.

Penn Sports Interactive, which is owned by Penn Entertainment, also received notice of a proposed $250,000 fine last month for Barstool Sportsbook allegedly targeting underage bettors and college students by hosting a pre-game show on the campus of the University of Toledo.

The enforcement activity means that after just five days of legal sport betting in Ohio, regulators have imposed fines totalling $1.05m.

Ohio’s tough approach to sports-betting regulation and marketing in particular goes all the way to the top with Republican Governor Mike DeWine.

“The companies that are doing the massive advertising need to be aware that they’re being looked at very closely by the governor and the [Ohio] Casino Control Commission in regard to statements that they are making,” DeWine told reporters on Tuesday (January 3).

Pete Rose, who was banished for life from Major League Baseball in 1989 for betting on games while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds, was one of the people to place the state's first legal bets on New Year's Day.

The 81-year-old Rose, who is still baseball’s all-time hits leader, went to the Hard Rock Sportsbook on January 1 in Cincinnati to bet the Reds would win the World Series in 2023.

On New Year's Day, Ohio became the 32nd state to accept wagers on sporting events.

It is less than five years since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on wagering and 31 states plus the District of Columbia have joined Nevada in the sports-betting market.

But after a record number of ten states began accepting bets in 2021, Kansas was the only state to start taking sports wagers last year.

Louisiana and New York added online wagers to their sports-betting portfolios in 2022 but the legalization of sports betting in other states appears to have hit a wall.

The same applies to internet gaming, which did not add any new states to its market last year.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Republican Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma expressed conditional support for adding his state to the line-up of legal sports wagering jurisdictions.

“Let me be clear. I support sports betting in Oklahoma — provided that it’s fair, transparent, and the state can maximize revenue potential to invest in top priorities, like education. More to come,” Stitt said.

Stitt’s tweet followed the introduction of a sports-betting bill by Republican state Representative Ken Luttrell, who introduced a similar measure in 2022 that failed.

Two to five states are expected to legalize sports betting this year, according to VIXIO GamblingCompliance's most recent U.S. Sports Betting Outlook report.

“At the moment, it is unclear if enough has changed in the relationship between the governor and the [Oklahoma gaming] tribes that this is a real possibility or if this will simply be a repeat of previous years where someone brings a bill to the table but that is kind of the end of it,” said John Holden, an assistant business professor at Oklahoma State University.

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