June Taylor has a lot to do before she sits in her living room on New Year’s Eve, waits for the clock and calendar to flip to 2023, and hopes her phone doesn’t ring.
One of those things is not worrying about the optics of Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati foisting Pete Rose as its celebrity first bettor when online and retail sports betting launch in Ohio at 12:01 a.m. That’s not in the purview of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, or Taylor, its chair.
That’s not to say Taylor didn’t have thoughts when she learned the casino would celebrate the launch of a legal sports betting market with a player who remains banned from the Hall of Fame for betting on baseball games as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
“I will say on behalf of us, it was just a ‘so-noted‘ moment,” Taylor told Gaming Today at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States conference last week. “It doesn’t affect our regulations and that sort of thing. We really look at what the operators do, but we’re really focused on the integrity of our work on the rules and so forth, and their guests and their VIP choices for marketing can be … interesting.”
Rose is scheduled to be joined by several other former Reds players, and current Bengals running back Joe Mixon is slated to host a party concurrently in the hotel. Bengals Hall of Famer Antony Munoz is among the VIPs for the sportsbook’s event.
But Rose is the star, with an asterisk. He’s still beloved in Ohio, but the all-time hits leader was again rebuffed recently in his attempt to qualify for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, and his numerous dark chapters, including an admission he bet on the Reds as their manager through a bookie, adds a tinge to the debut of a legal, regulated market.
“This is one of my favorite sayings:,’ Andromeda Morrison, the OCCC general counsel and director of skill games, told Gaming Today. “The commission is not necessarily the arbiter of good taste or good judgment.”
Ohio Gambling Regulators on Sports Betting Launch
But the OCCC is the arbiter of virtually every other aspect of the upcoming launch. So with just more than three weeks until the scheduled launch, Gaming Today checked in for an update on Ohio’s readiness.
How Many Online Apps Will be Available for Ohio Sports Betting Launch?
ANDROMEDA MORRISON: There’ll probably be about a dozen or so online operators. And then maybe around that same amount of physical sportsbooks at casinos, sports (facilities), et cetera. And then there will be a variety of kiosk locations that are run through the Ohio Lottery Commission.
How Will Ohio Sports Betting Laws Protect At-Risk Ohioans?
JUNE TAYLOR: Let me talk a little bit about our state: We are a state that is profoundly focused on protecting the vulnerable. We are passionate about that — when you take a look at responsible gaming and what we’ve put together from the standpoint of having a fund to assist, resources, and now we have Judge Brendan Sheehan from Cuyahoga County that has, essentially, a gambling court.
We’ve put an infrastructure together to really, I think from a statewide perspective, give the resources there to help those that may be afflicted, those that are vulnerable, those that also want to do self-exclusion. That’s a huge component as well as it relates to the operators.
I think we’ve been more communicative than ever about our expectations about the rules. And I think we’ve continued to bring home that point, not only just in our meetings, but one-on-one when we consult with operators, we, I would say, always give a gentle and friendly reminder, and we expect everyone to really follow the rules that are in place.
ANDROMEDA MORRISON: Just to build off of Chair Taylor’s statements there, the commission has adopted a specific prohibition in our advertising standards to prohibit advertising on college campuses or targeting college campuses, to address some of the concerns that have existed in the industry. And so we’re learning, from the benefit of coming a little bit later than some of the other states, for sure.
[We’re] educating the industry about those requirements, what the commission’s expectations are, and then holding them accountable if they fall short of those expectations.
What are the Advertising Restrictions Around College Campuses?
ANDROMEDA MORRISON: We continue to work with operators to define or provide that specific guidance. There are some things — billboards that you’re going to see as you’re driving to campus or to football games, radio or television advertisements that might be (accessible) on campus — (that are) going to be viewed differently than the student radio station, the student newspaper.
An advertisement that’s directly on campus or directly targeting an area that’s readily, prominently available on campus will be viewed with much more scrutiny by the commission than those other kinds of generally available forms of advertisements.
Can College Athletic Programs Take on Sportsbook Partners?
ANDROMEDA MORRISON: There would be nothing that would prevent the college from having an agreement, but there would be prohibitions for that operator to advertise.
So if you’re not able to advertise at Ohio Stadium, for example, it is not as financially profitable, I think, for these companies to partner with Ohio colleges.
Was it Helpful To Watch Neighboring States Legalize Sports Betting Before Ohio?
JUNE TAYLOR: It really has helped. And you’ve seen, too, at this conference, we have great relationships with other states. We share information. I think that Ohio has taken a lessons-learned approach and seen what other states have done. We’ve also looked at the industry, how the industry has changed since sports betting has occurred in some of those states as well, and taken into account the balance of the pros and the cons as well as complementing and using technology and innovation when we see what might benefit.