Four Ohio Sportsbooks Face Fines for Violating Sports Betting Rules

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Four Ohio sports betting operators now face fines for allegedly violating the state’s sports betting law and regulations.

The latest notice of violations was issued this week by the Ohio Casino Control Commission against BetMGM, DraftKings, and Caesars. All three companies are accused by the OCCC of promoting “free” or “risk-free” bets and running advertisements in the state of Ohio without a required problem gambling message. 

According to an OCCC email to Gaming Today on Thursday, the alleged violations occurred around or after Dec. 30, when the OCCC issued “explicit guidance” on required responsible gambling messaging in sports betting advertisements. 

Last month, the OCCC notified Barstool and DraftKings of their alleged violation of rules against advertising to persons under the age of 21 stemming from two separate incidents last fall. 

All four companies can challenge the allegations in administrative hearings expected by the OCCC as soon as this month. 

Barstool, DraftKings Put on Notice in December

BetMGM, Caesars, and DraftKings each face a $150,000 fine, “as well as other remedial action”, based on the most recent allegations, the OCCC said in its email. 

Additionally, DraftKings faces a fine of $350,000 stemming from an incident in November. The OCCC alleges that DraftKings violated state rules by sending 2,500 promotional mailings to persons under age 21 ahead of the state’s Jan. 1 launch. 

Barstool was put on notice Dec. 14 by the OCCC for allegedly violating state rules on advertising near a college campus and marketing to persons under age 21 following a live show near the University of Toledo in November.  That company faces a minimum $250,000 fine from the incident, with an OCCC hearing on the matter pending this month.  

Mounting Allegations a ‘Warning’ to Ohio Operators

Mounting allegations of violations by sportsbook operators in the days before and following Ohio’s Jan. 1 launch have been a warning to companies that want to compete in the sports-rich Midwest market. 

Ohio State Sports Betting Legislation Amendments

The home of multiple pro franchises and college athletic programs is watching sportsbook operators closely as the rollout continues, Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters on Jan. 3.  

Any use of the word “free” or “risk-free” in betting promotions specifically can expect to get a closer look by the OCCC. 

“That’s a pretty clear line they cannot cross,” DeWine told reporters on Jan. 3, according to cleveland.com. ”I also think they must be very careful, candidly, in regard to the claim of ‘free money and free gaming.’ When you look at the fine print, or try to figure out what it really means, it doesn’t mean what certainly is being implied by the TV advertising.”

Ohio sports betting regulations prohibit use of the words “free” or “risk-free” to describe any promotion that requires a bettor to risk their own money to get the promotion.

Per the OCCC email on Thursday, “Commission rules on promotions and bonuses prohibit 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.” 

OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler said in a Dec. 30 press release that his agency “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.” 

Alleged violations by sportsbook operators will be voted on by the OCCC in public hearings expected to begin this month. Any fines levied against operators will be deposited in the state’s Sports Gaming Revenue Fund, per state law. 

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Writer and Contributor
Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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