Ohio Start Date for Sports Betting Won’t Change for Buckeyes-Bulldogs Football Game

The Ohio Casino Control Commission was also told Wednesday of administrative actions taken against Barstool Sportsbook and PlayUp, albeit over different allegations.

Dec 14, 2022 • 15:08 ET • 3 min read
Ohio State sports betting
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The timing of a huge college football game won’t be enough to move the start date for legal sports betting in Ohio

Fourth-seeded Ohio State will play first-seeded Georgia in a College Football Playoff semifinal on December 31, just one day before a host of retail and online sports betting sites will begin taking wagers in the Buckeye State.

The game would likely draw a hefty amount of interest from bettors and handle for operators in Ohio if wagering on the matchup is allowed. 

It won’t, though, unless the game runs until after midnight. 

Ohio Casino Control Commission Executive Director Matt Schuler reiterated during a public meeting on Wednesday that the universal start date for legal sports betting in Ohio remains Jan. 1, 2023. It is then that wagering can begin over the internet, at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, and using lottery-linked kiosks. 

Clearing up any misunderstanding

Schuler said some media had suggested the commission would or should move up the universal start date, and that they had received subsequent inquiries about the matter. This created uncertainty among the entities the commission regulates, the director said, which he was hoping to clear up.

“The universal start date by law has to be a date where all classes of licenses are able to start at the same time,” Schuler said. “And so we picked January 1 as the date that the [Class A, B, and C licensees] and services providers would all be able to launch. It was very purposeful.”

After looking into the matter, the facts the commission relied upon to set the January 1 start date haven’t changed, the director added, and that date will not be varied. So, even with the massive college football matchup on deck, Ohio will have no legal sportsbooks to take bets from players when the Buckeyes take the field.

Some of the matters the casino control commission is still sorting out were evident on Wednesday, as the regulators approved mobile sports betting licenses for companies connected to Bally Bet, Betway, and Underdog Fantasy. Another online sports betting license was approved for Out The Gate Inc., pushing up the number of licensed mobile operators in the state to 20. 

Put on notice 

However, Schuler also had some awkward news for commissioners. One was that as part of a licensing suitability investigation, commission staff uncovered information regarding “potential illegal gambling” activity by PlayUp, which wants to offer online sports betting in Ohio. 

PlayUp has requested a hearing on the proposed denial of its application by commission staff, but, in the meantime, the operator will not be licensed or allowed to take bets in Ohio, Schuler said. While the director didn’t comment further on the allegations, he stressed the importance of the commission’s suitability investigations and the “very high standards” applicants face. 

Among other things, the notice of opportunity for hearing to PlayUp alleges the operator is not suitable or eligible for a so-called mobile management services provider license. This is because, the casino control commission claims, PlayUp accepted "illegal" wagers from U.S. bettors after April 16, 2015, through its "slots+" product. The operator did not respond to questions from Covers before this story was published. 

The executive director then went on to say that Barstool Sportsbook was issued a notice of violation by commission staff. This was in connection with alleged violations of the regulator’s rules against advertising on or targeting the area of an Ohio college or university campus, as well as against targeting people under the age of 21. 

“Responsible gaming should be the cornerstone of any gaming business,” Schuler said. “This apparent direct promotion to college students is completely at odds with responsible gaming and the law.”

The notice of violation and opportunity for hearing that was sent to Penn Sports Interactive, which does business as Barstool Sportsbook, was in connection with a Barstool college football show held in November on the University of Toledo's campus. The regulator says Barstool advertised the Barstool Sportsbook during the show, which failed to comply with Ohio law, according to documents provided by the commission to Covers. 

Furthermore, the notice says the commission wants a requirement for Barstool Sportsbook personnel to be trained in all laws, policies, and procedures relevant to advertising and promoting sports betting under Ohio law. The advertising rules are "at the core" of responsible gaming protections in the state, the regulator added.

"Specifically, the prohibition against college advertising and not targeting individuals under the age of 21 are essential to Ohio sports gaming responsible gaming and protections against underage gambling," the notice says. "The issues described above directly violate these rules and expose sports gaming patrons, and underage individuals, to unnecessary risk." 

A PENN spokesperson said in an email to Covers that they "look forward to the opportunity to address this directly with the Ohio Casino Control Commission through its regulatory process."

"Other than that," the spokesperson added, "we do not comment on pending regulatory matters."

Due process 

The director added that the notice of violation recommends a $250,000 fine. However, as with PlayUp’s issue, Barstool has the right to a hearing and due process regarding the proposed penalty. Moreover, the commission will have to vote on any action that is ultimately taken against Barstool as well, as it will have to do with PlayUp. 

Ohio’s notice of violation follows a New York Times series on sports betting, part of which focused on the owner of Barstool Sportsbook, PENN Entertainment Inc., and its ownership and relationship with Barstool Sports, after which PENN's online sportsbook is named. 

Barstool Sports founder David Portnoy spent time on college campuses this past fall talking about betting, the Times reported

“One Saturday in late September, Mr. Portnoy was in Knoxville, Tenn., for a University of Tennessee football game,” the paper said. “He sat on an outdoor stage with other Barstool personalities and cans of High Noon, a vodka drink that he and Barstool are paid to promote. A raucous crowd of Tennessee fans yelled, cursed, and pounded High Noon as Mr. Portnoy shared his latest wager: $100,000 on the University of Georgia to win the college football championship.” 

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