Ohio sportsbooks are not allowed to market on university campuses.
The goal of these ad restrictions seems to be to keep financially vulnerable college students from being overexposed to gambling ads. The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) emailed Gaming Today a statement on the advertising rules governing sportsbooks and university campuses:
“The Commission’s rules on sports gaming advertising prohibit sports gaming advertising or promoting on college or university campuses located in the state of Ohio — with the exception of generally available advertising, including television, radio, and digital advertising — and further clarifies that advertising targeting college or university campuses is not generally available.”
While sportsbooks can’t market on college campuses, they can market on television, social media, and other mediums where college students may see ads. It’s impossible to prevent college students from seeing sportsbook ads altogether. The best the OCCC can do is ensure that college students aren’t disproportionately targeted.
Sportsbook Marketing Rules Vary Across the United States
Marketing has become an issue in many of the states where sportsbooks have launched. Sportsbook ad bonuses are frequent during sports broadcasts. So, bettors in certain markets have felt overexposed to gambling ads.
The welcome bonuses featured in these ads have drawn unwelcome regulatory attention, too. Some states, like Ohio, had already prohibited “risk-free” language from bonuses that require customer wagers. Others, like Maryland, debated about how many sportsbook ads could play consecutively during commercial breaks.
Not every state has limited gambling advertising on university campuses. The University of Colorado at Boulder signed a marketing contract with PointsBet. Per the agreement, PointsBet will advertise its sportsbook at CU sports events. In return, CU Boulder will receive $1.625 million over five years and $30 for each customer referral.
While these ads are likely meant for the graduated adults who attend CU events, college students — who are old enough to gamble — are also exposed to this advertising.
Ohio’s marketing restrictions remove college stadiums from sportsbooks’ possible advertising venues. It’s a small step toward the containment of sportsbook advertising in a new market.
Ohio College Campuses Off Limits to Sportsbook Ads
While Ohio’s college campuses may be free from sportsbook advertising, television commercials will still feature sportsbook ads. Social media ads aren’t off limits either. They can target adults aged 21 to 24 years old.
“I think that for sportsbooks, the value in not being able to advertise on college campuses is that they are able to maintain a better reputation in the public eye, where they can acknowledge they aren’t advertising to students,” Ohio University Assistant Professor of Sport Administration, Melissa Davies said. “They can also still reach the college demographic by sponsoring or advertising with other relevant teams, organizations, and places throughout the state.”
Sportsbook advertisements are in sports broadcasts, on social media, and on billboards off highways. Even though college students can’t be reached directly on campus. That’s why the OCCC fined Penn National Gaming for Barstool Sportsbook’s promotion on the University of Toledo’s campus. Although Ohio’s regulatory atmosphere is strict now, it could change in the future.
“That said, as the public becomes more accustomed to the idea of betting on sports…I think regulations could shift, particularly when you consider the potential revenue available from the sponsorship or advertising from these sportsbooks and that the legal age to gamble in Ohio is 18 years old,” Davies said.
In Ohio, 16-year-olds can play bingo and 18-year-olds can play Keno, the state lottery, and horse racing. Sports betting and casino gaming are available to 21-year-olds. Since the gambling age varies by state, it wouldn’t be surprising to see sportsbooks lobby for lower sports betting ages over time. It’s unlikely since it would require sportsbooks to avoid public scandal. But comfort with sports betting could change regulations even in strict markets.
Ohio Among Leaders in Problem Gambling Approach
Marketing restrictions for college students aren’t surprising from Ohio lawmakers. Ohio is home to Change the Game, an awareness campaign dedicated to youth problem gambling. It helps parents, educators, and young people identify, prevent, and recover from problem gambling among teens and young adults.
Ohio also has also developed important treatments for problem gamblers. In January 2022, a group of Kentucky researchers studied the effectiveness of the Ohio Problem Gambling Treatment Model for Adults with Co-Occurring Disorders (OhPGTM). The researchers found that over five years, the OhPGTM “reduc[ed] self-reported GD symptom severity.”
The same study notes that gambling disorder patients often get an applied version of cognitive behavioral therapy or mindfulness exercises in treatment. The OhPGTM offers treatment options uniquely tailored to problem gamblers’ needs.
While it doesn’t address self-esteem or gambling urges — two drivers of problem gambling behaviors — the OhPGTM is a critical innovation in problem gambling treatment.
As Ohio sportsbooks come online, continued innovation in responsible gambling will be critical. Online gambling is available to everyone with a smartphone and the ability to pass sportsbooks’ age-verification measures. Currently, bettors must sign into sportsbooks to self-exclude, forcing problem gamblers to confront welcome bonuses and sportsbook odds.
Despite Ohio’s leadership in responsible gambling in the United States, there are many issues left to confront.