Ohio’s top gaming regulator warned that people who send harassing messages to college athletes via social media and other methods may be subject to penalties, including involuntary exclusion from betting.
During the Ohio Casino Control Commission’s (OCCC) monthly meeting on Wednesday (January 18), executive director Matt Schuler said the issue was one the regulator was looking into following comments from Anthony Grant, men’s basketball coach at the University of Dayton.
In his post-game press conference Tuesday (January 17), Grant encouraged fans of the collegiate team and others to refrain from attacking players on social media.
“There are some laws that have recently been enacted, that really to me, could really change the landscape of what college sports are all about,” Grant said, referring to legal sports betting in Ohio. “And when we have people that make it about themselves and attack kids because of their own agenda, it sickens me.”
“They have families. They don't deserve that. Mental health is real,” Grant said.
In response, Schuler said Wednesday that the casino commission could look to act, following a similar string of attacks on players at Ohio State University several years ago.
“The commission does have the authority by the General Assembly to put people on an exclusion list from all gambling in the state of Ohio, and I think that it's incumbent upon the commission to look into that very power,” Schuler said.
“If social media is able to help us determine who these individuals are that are speaking out hate to kids, then the commission has a responsibility to ensure that ... certainly those people cannot engage in legal sports gaming in the state of Ohio,” he continued.
“We obviously don't have control over people's behavior, but we do have control over what venues they can choose to participate.”
No set plans were given Wednesday as to how the commission would begin to monitor these issues.
In another action during Wednesday's meeting, the first in a series of regulatory sanctions issued by the OCCC over the past month was settled, as Caesars Entertainment waived its right to contest a $150,000 fine the company received for failing to conspicuously advertise a responsible gambling hotline number in advertising, as well as promoting “risk-free” wagers in violation of state regulations.
DraftKings and BetMGM have also received penalty notices of $150,000 for similar offenses.
Jeff Hendricks, assistant general counsel for Caesars, said that the content that violated the rules was provided by a third-party marketing affiliate and that although Caesars states in its agreements that the company must approve content, in this instance the procedures were not followed.
“We believe that, if they had, the content would have had the appropriate disclaimer and would not have referenced free bet content,” Hendricks said.
Eric Hession, president of Caesars Digital, said that Caesars had terminated its agreement with the affiliate nationally, and alerted all of the other affiliates it works with to the failure and their obligation to clear advertising with Caesars prior to publication.
In addition, he said, the company prohibited affiliates from using external click-through marketing of Caesars' promotions to draw traffic to its site in Ohio.
“We aggressively went out and made sure that this was a top priority and made sure that all of the other affiliates we work with are aware of the consequences of deviating from the contractual agreements that we have with them,” Hession said.
Caesars received praise from Schuler and commission chair June Taylor for its response to the violations.
“I think the fact that your organization terminated this affiliate relationship, not only speaks volumes about your values and your philosophy and your leadership, but I think for us, it's a model in compliance that I think we hope that those that are listening, also are learning,” Taylor said. “This is the sort of model that we want to see when things like this occur.”
“If every licensee followed the path that Mr. Hession just laid out for Caesars Sportsbook, I believe 90 to 95 percent of the problem we are trying to solve would be rectified,” Schuler added. “Swift compliance and going directly to the source.”
Schuler also reiterated remarks he made to VIXIO GamblingCompliance during an interview last week about the issues the commission has seen to date with affiliate marketers.
“The weakest link in the advertising chain is the third-party marketers, affiliate marketers,” he said. “They are the weakest link and they have now brought them under control.
“If the other sportsbooks do the same, we may not likely have to revisit this, and so we believe this a real solution.”