The regulator of sports betting in Ohio is warning bookmakers to get smarter about their advertising efforts about a week away from the launch of legal event wagering in the Buckeye State.
An email the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) sent on Friday to the future operators of retail and online sports betting sites in the state warned the recent promotional actions of the industry at large have been “concerning” and need to be corrected.
“We understand mistakes happen, but it is not a mistake when it appears to be this consistent,” the commission said in its email.
The Ohio Casino Control Commission just sent out an email warning sportsbook operators about their advertising efforts a little more than a week away from the start of legal event wagering in the state.— Geoff Zochodne (@GeoffZochodne) December 23, 2022
Among other things, the OCCC alleges operators have been skirting RG rules. pic.twitter.com/uTyVYvwIxm
The OCCC has allowed operators to advertise themselves in the state before the start of legal sports betting there on January 1 — as long as companies abide by the regulations.
Yet the industry has been breaking three key rules recently, the OCCC charged, which are ensuring ads have responsible gaming messaging, that the RG messaging is “conspicuous,” and that ads do not target people under the age of 21.
“These tenants [sic] comport with a stance the industry repeats itself over and over again; namely, that the industry does not want to have people participating in gaming if they are underage or have a gambling problem,” the OCCC said in its email. “As such, the Commission is disappointed to be seeing apparent consistent violations. As we stated in June and as has been published on our website since then, failure to meet the advertising standards will result in administrative action.”
The regulator asked operators to immediately review their ads and ensure they comply with the rules around RG messaging and are not being beamed at underage individuals. Of particular concern to the commission is that the helpline number in an ad “be at least nearly as clear, legible, and audible” as the rest of the commercial.
Some Ohio-specific advertising is missing conspicuous RG messaging or any RG messaging at all, the OCCC said.
“To be clear, conspicuous certainly is not having the responsible gambling tagline in the smallest font, lowest voice, or fastest speech in the advertisement,” the regulator’s email added.
The warning comes as the Jan. 1, 2023, start date for legal sports betting in Ohio is hurtling toward the state and as regulators are preparing to launch retail, lottery, and online event wagering simultaneously.
Moreover, the advertising riot act is being read to operators that are keen to start taking bets in Ohio, which should be a major market for them given its sizable population and rich sports culture. Judging from the OCCC’s warning, bookmakers are already trying to attract the attention of customers that will soon be able to wager legally.
As many as 20 online sportsbooks could start taking bets as early as January in Ohio, as the casino control commission has conditionally approved that many licenses thus far.
And, while the regulator said it is not looking to take administrative action or manage the industry’s advertising, its recent actions suggest it is willing to do so if operators do not comply with the state’s rules. The OCCC even recently issued rebukes to companies connected to Barstool Sportsbook and PlayUp over alleged advertising missteps.
Still, the OCCC has stressed it wants to take a mostly hands-off approach.
“As such, we ask for the same courtesy from the industry: Act in accordance with your stated goals on responsible gambling,” the OCCC said in its email. “We look forward to helping the industry do so.”