Sportsbooks Fined By Ohio Commission

The online gambling industry in the United States continues to grow as new states adopt the legislation required to license and regulate operators. It was Ohio’s turn to do so on the 1st of January by signing House Bill 29 into law and allowing online bookmakers to apply for a license issued by the state’s Casino Control Commission.

Shortly after putting the framework in place, Ohio issued 23 type A licenses that allow operators to offer online sports betting services via mobile apps and websites. However, shortly after going live, three bookies breached the gambling advertising rules and received fines for their actions.

What Led to the Fines Handed by Ohio’s Regulator?

Upon receiving their type A license, all operators agreed to follow strict rules regarding sports betting advertising. The regulations do not allow any use of “risk-free” or “free” bets and need to have a clear message in order to prevent problem gambling

However, in the rush of launching their websites, at least three bookmakers active in Ohio failed to respect the advertising restrictions and are now facing hefty fines. BetMGM, DraftKings, and Ceasers are online sportsbooks that repeatedly broke their promise not to promote free bets when the customers are required to risk their own funds. In addition, the Ohio Casino Control Commission established that the same companies did not include a clear message about the dangers of problem gambling in their communications.

Therefore, the brands will have to pay a $150,000 fine for not respecting the guidelines stipulated by the Commission. To make things even worse, this comes after all the licensed bookies received a warning on the 30th of December, 2022, about following these specific rules.

Ohio’s Casino Control Commission executive director, Matt Schuler, said that the bookmakers got several memos about the rules regarding promotions and advertising. However, some of them continue to disregard the law leaving the commission with no choice but to seek penalties.

The Bookmakers’ Position

Caesars Sportsbook

Of course, the companies targeted with fines had the chance to express their stance on the events. Caesars sportsbook, through their assistant general counsel Jeff Hendricks said they are sorry that the issue was identified since they were eager to cooperate with the commission to settle things.

In their case, the rules were broken by an affiliate campaign on Twitter that had a Free Bonus Offer of $100 as a promotional free bet. However, the punter had to make a $20 deposit to be able to enjoy the so-called “free bet”.

DraftKings Sportsbook promised a Free Bonus

Even though the operator highlighted that they are committed to respecting the highest standards of responsible gambling and player protection, DraftKings refused to comment on the fine they’re targeted with.

In this case, the penalty amount could be even higher since the online bookmaker is accused of sending around 2,500 ads to potential customers under 21, who are not allowed to place bets. For this breach of regulations, the operator could receive a $350,000 fine as the investigations are underway.

BetMGM Sportsbook

Finally, BetMGM was also notified about their wrong steps regarding sports betting advertising compliance. The company refused to comment on the events while reassuring its customers that responsible gambling is of utmost importance for the brand.

Even so, the State of Ohio made it very clear that the companies that massively advertise betting on sports need to be aware that their actions are being closely watched.

Other Sanctions Handed by OCCC

This string of fines applied by the Ohio Casino Control Commission is not the first of its kind. Earlier in December, Barstool Sportsbook also received a notice of violation regarding an event that took place on the Toledo University campus. The regulations clearly state that advertising near or on college campuses is forbidden, and Barstool could receive a $250,000 fine for failing to comply.

Overall, the total sum of the proposed sanctions exceeds $1 million, and the commission shows no signs of slowing down. The regulators want to send a clear message to all licensed online bookmakers – follow the rules or pay the price.

Final Thoughts

It is clear that the Ohio Casino Control Commission is determined to follow the law to the letter and not let operators get away with even minor mistakes. This approach is fantastic for player protection and avoiding serious gambling disorders. However, it may cause some bookmakers to reduce their activities in the state, resulting in less income received through online betting taxation.

One thing is sure though, the online gambling industry in the United States continues its spectacular growth. From a market size of $9,5 billion in 2021, the estimates for 2023 are more than optimistic, despite regulators’ strictness.

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