Sportsbook Marketing Has ‘Crossed the Line’, Ohio Gov. DeWine Says

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Three days after statewide launch, Ohio sportsbooks are getting a hard look from sports betting regulators and Gov. Mike DeWine. 

DeWine told reporters today that the Ohio Casino Control Commission is scrutinizing sportsbook advertising and promotions – specifically, any offers that include the word “free.”  

“That’s a pretty clear line they cannot cross,” the governor said, 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 sportsbooks from using the words “free” or “risk-free” to describe any promotion that requires a bettor to risk their own money to access winnings. 

DeWine today said regulators know of “several occasions” where sportsbooks may have violated the state’s sports betting regulations, although he reportedly didn’t go into detail. 

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Marketing to Underage People Also a Concern

DeWine’s comments came five days after the OCCC alleged violation of state sports betting advertising and responsible gaming regulations by DraftKings, stemming from a promotional mailing in November. About 2,500 of those ads were addressed to people under the age of 21. The company faces a $350,000 fine in connection to the allegation. 

Earlier last month, the OCCC accused Barstool Sportsbook of violating similar regulations at a live tailgate show outside the University of Toledo in November. Gaming Today reported on Dec. 15 that Barstool faces a fine of at least $250,000 from the OCCC for potentially violating state rules on advertising near a college campus with marketing targeted to those under age 21 during a tailgate show near the University of Toledo football stadium on Nov. 15. A hearing on the matter is expected this month.

“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 Casino Control Commission in regard to statements that they are making,” DeWine said. “We believe that at least on several occasions they’ve already crossed the line. My message to them is that this will not be tolerated in the State of Ohio.”

State Gaming Commission Backs Governor’s Remarks

State gaming regulators are backing the governor’s remarks. OCCC Communications Director Jessica Franks said in an email to Gaming Today that the commission “shares the Governor’s concerns” about sports betting advertising and promotions. 

Franks said the commission had to issue guidance on the appropriate use of advertising twice in the week prior to the state’s Jan. 1 universal launch, a fact she called “disappointing.”

Franks did not specify which sportsbooks were subject to the “explicit guidance” that she said was issued by the OCCC in the days leading up to the New Year’s Day launch. However, DraftKings was put on notice by the commission last Friday of potential violations of responsible gaming regulations related to advertising targeted to persons under Ohio’s legal betting age of 21. 

Franks told Gaming Today in her email today that the OCCC will look for other potential violations of Ohio sports betting rules as the state’s sports betting rollout continues.

“While our goal is compliance, the Commission remains vigilant in monitoring sports gaming ads and promotions and will not hesitate to take administrative action for repeated violations,” she said.

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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