Ohioans using online sportsbooks will soon have a new way to fund their accounts or give sports wagering money as a gift. The Ohio Casino Control Commission announced yesterday that Ohio sports betting operators can begin selling gift cards. But will the new funding option help or hinder the commission’s efforts to keep a lid on problem gambling?
So far, regulators have treated the issue of responsible gaming seriously. Ohio has strict requirements for advertising, has issued fines to operators for violating those requirements and launched a responsible gaming awareness campaign targeting sports bettors.
Ohio sportsbook advertising rules apply to gift cards
The OCCC updated their Sports Gaming FAQs with the new guidelines regarding gift cards. The new guidelines say that displaying or selling the gift cards constitutes an advertisement, so the cards and their packaging must adhere to the established rules for sportsbook advertising.
That means the cards can’t be sold on or targeted to college campuses, and can only be sold to and redeemed by those 21 or older. Like other gambling advertising, the cards will be required to contain responsible gambling messaging including a helpline phone number, displayed conspicuously.
It might be reasonable to expect that increasing the visibility of the sportsbook brands and offering an additional funding option might have a net negative effect on responsible gambling efforts. But an article by PlayUSA discussing BetMGM gift cards suggests the cards can be used by gamblers as a responsible gambling tool.
“These cards can act as a natural budgeting device. You can opt to simply load your bankroll onto a card and then redeem it in the app. If you stick to spending only what you’ve loaded, you’re guaranteed to never exceed your budget.”
The gift cards offered by gambling operators in other states do not work like prepaid credit cards. The gift cards aren’t reloadable, and you can’t use them to withdraw any winnings. App users will still need to have a method set up for withdrawals. Some apps offer alternatives to traditional bank accounts for withdrawals, such as PayPal.
Where to buy Ohio sportsbook gift cards
Online casino and sportsbook operators in other legal gambling states sell gift cards at retail locations such as convenience stores and grocery stores.
But gift cards aren’t available in Ohio just yet. The OCCC said that sportsbook operators wishing to offer gift cards will have to have the gift card product approved by the commission first.
DraftKings was the first online gambling app to offer gift cards, when they launched them in Pennsylvania in 2020. In that state, they initially made the cards available at 7-Eleven, Speedway, Dollar General and Sheetz.
BetMGM currently sells their gift cards in over 12,000 locations across 12 states. They also initially focused on convenience stores for distribution. But their latest expansion focused on grocery stores, big box stores and even home improvement retailers.
In Ohio, the OCCC hasn’t put any restrictions on where the cards can be sold, aside from proximity to colleges and universities.
The benefits of online sportsbook gift cards in Ohio
For sportsbook operators, one benefit is that the gift cards can bolster brand loyalty. If a bettor chooses to fund their account using gift cards, or receives them as a gift, the funds can only be used at the sportsbook that issued the card. Operators that can achieve favorable positioning at retail outlets should see a benefit from offering the cards.
For some gambling app users, gift cards can remove friction from placing bets online. As PlayUSA pointed out last year, “Some people who gamble online run into issues when using funding sources tied to traditional bank accounts. For example, some banks do not allow account holders to use credit or debit cards for gambling transactions.”
Purchasing a gift card to fund your sportsbook account can be a way to circumvent bank policies that keep you from depositing money directly into the account. In addition, some funding methods might charge users a fee. With the gift cards, there are no fees and redeeming the card in the app is simple.
Another benefit for gamblers is the possibility of promotions included with gift cards. For example, BetMGM offers a $10 credit with the purchase of a gift card. BetMGM also has a store locator on their website, which could be helpful once they launch gift cards in Ohio.