The Ohio Casino Control Commission issued a general warning to sports betting operators last week to stay within the legal bounds of advertising. The notice came a little more than a week after the OCCC announced a violation notice carrying a $250,000 fine against PENN Entertainment/Barstool Sports for marketing on a college campus.
The OCCC sent an email to operators Friday stating “the Commission has seen the industry break three of these core [advertising] tenets recently” and outlined the three:
- All advertisements must have a responsible gambling message.
- All responsible gambling messages must be conspicuous.
- Advertisements must NOT target individuals under the age of 21.
Lawmakers legalized retail and digital wagering in Ohio last December, and more than 15 operators have plans to go live as early as 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1.
Helpline info must be clearly included
In its letter, the OCCC pointed out that inclusion of a helpline phone number in all marketing is a particular concern, and it noted that violators could face administrative action. The commission acknowledged that there are challenges when some operators advertise across multiple states, but it wrote that it had seen “Ohio-specific advertisements lack responsible gaming messaging or not have conspicuous responsible gaming messaging.”
The email also stated it would be unacceptable to use the “smallest font, lowest voice, or fastest speech in the advertisement” for the part of it addressing responsible gambling.
PENN Entertainment/Barstool Sportsbook, according to the OCCC, advertised to potential customers under the age of 21 when the Barstool College Football Show visited the University of Toledo campus Nov. 15 and promoted pre-registration. PENN CEO Jay Snowden said last week during a Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting that the company would pay the $250,000 fine and move on. He promised the company would not repeat it.
PENN Entertainment operates four retail locations in Ohio in Columbus, Dayton, Mahoning Valley, and Toledo. It has plans for Barstool Sportsbooks for in-person betting at each location, plus a Barstool digital platform tethered to the Columbus casino.
The OCCC does not review and approve industry advertising in advance or license affiliate partners of the sportsbooks. Rather, it uses a more liberal approach under which stakeholders must police themselves or face violations. At this point, the OCCC, says it will not take any additional action against operators, but it did suggest that all of them review advertising guidelines and FAQs ahead of launch.