Ohio Governor Issues Stern Warning About Breaking Advertising Rules

Two operators have already been cited as DeWine pledges to watch them 'very closely'

Two days after legal sports betting went live in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday expressed that he was unhappy with operators violating advertising and marketing rules, and that such behavior will not be “tolerated.”

Ahead of launch, the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) cited Barstool Sportsbook and DraftKings for targeting Ohioans under the age of 21.

“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, according to Cleveland.com. “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.”

The OCCC launched more than 25 retail and mobile sportsbooks beginning just after midnight Sunday morning in the biggest single-day launch in the U.S. At least 15 digital platforms, including Barstool Sportsbook and DraftKings, went live, as well as 13 retail locations, including one each at Great American Ballpark and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The launch spurred an uptick in downloads of wagering platforms nationwide, and geofencing company GeoComply recorded more than 11 million transactions in the Buckeye State on Sunday and Monday.

Guidelines, but no piece-by-piece review

The OCCC provides operators with regulations around advertising and marketing, but does not explicitly approve each individual piece of promotional material — a protocol that’s proven relevant to the penalties meted out thus far in the state.

In late December, the OCCC cited DraftKings for sending more than 2,000 fliers to people under the age of 21. The company could be fined up to $350,000.

Barstool Sportsbook was also cited in December for a violation of the OCCC’s policy after the Barstool College Football Show made an appearance at the University of Toledo in September. Some in the audience were under the age of 21 while Barstool founder Dave Portnoy was talking about a $100,000 bet on No. 1 Georgia to win the college football championship, and the show’s hosts were sharing information about pre-registration for the Barstool Sportsbook platform. The company could be fined up to $250,000.

During a Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting last month, PENN Entertainment CEO Jay Snowden said that his company would pay the Ohio fine, but that it might also need to get a better understanding of what constitutes “advertising.”

It’s important to note that the show is a product of Barstool Sports, not Barstool Sportsbook, though the two are linked. Barstool Sportsbook and DraftKings are both entitled to a hearing.

Be careful with the word ‘free’

Sandwiched between these two announcements, the OCCC issued its own warning to sportsbooks, reiterating its advertising rules and suggesting that operators reacquaint themselves with the information.

DeWine, who is a proponent of legal wagering, stated that certain promotions and offers of “free bets” were out of bounds.

“That’s a pretty clear line they cannot cross,” DeWine said. “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.”

Photo: Shutterstock


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