Ohio’s regulator of legal sports betting has finalized a fine for BetMGM over advertising mistakes made more or less right out of the starting gate for mobile event wagering in the Buckeye State.
The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) approved an order on Wednesday levying a $150,000 fine and other remedial actions, such as additional training, for BetMGM, which the regulator said violated the state’s rules for advertising and promotions.
BetMGM had the right to request a hearing about the fine but chose not to, putting the final order before the commission for consideration.
“BetMGM takes responsibility that we made an error, and we apologize for that error, and we're going to remedy that error,” the company’s chief compliance officer, Rhea Loney, told the commission. “Also, we take responsibility not only for our internal advertisements but also our external partners in marketing. And so we want to acknowledge and take responsibility for that.”
Loney did discuss BetMGM’s responsible-gaming approach with the commission, including that the joint venture of MGM Resorts International and Entain PLC recently announced a new pledge to "prominently feature" RG messaging in its advertising campaigns as of March 1.
But Wednesday’s meeting is part of a trend in Ohio, where the OCCC, the regulator of legal sports betting in the state, has been very active and vocal about the kind of behavior it wants to see from both bettors and operators. The commission has proposed multiple fines for operators, even though sportsbooks have been accepting action for less than three months.
Indeed, the Ohio Casino Control Commission announced in early January that it had notified BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, and DraftKings about plans to take administrative action against them for alleged violations of advertising rules.
According to the regulator, the three bookmakers or their affiliate marketers ran ads without clear and conspicuous messaging about problem-gambling prevention and a helpline number. Those commercials appeared even after the OCCC “issued explicit guidance on the matter” to ensure that messaging was in place, a press release noted.
Furthermore, the casino control commission charged that all three companies used promotions described as “free” or “risk-free” when bettors were still required to incur a loss or risk their money to obtain the freebies. That was another no-no under the commission’s rules, and the regulator said it was seeking $150,000 fines for all three bookmakers, which were entitled to a hearing and due process.
The fines for Caesars and DraftKings have already been approved by the commission, leaving only BetMGM's matter to be resolved, which it was on Wednesday.