In its first month of legal sports betting in Ohio, the state saw a glimpse of the ugly side that can come with it.
On Thursday, the Ohio Lottery Commission released a statement warning Ohio sports bettors — in no uncertain terms — that harassing athletes will result in being banned from all gambling in Ohio.
The Lottery Commission shares oversight of legal sports betting in the state with the Ohio Casino Control Commission.
Ohio Lottery Commission threatens exclusion from Ohio betting market
The Lottery was responding to recent reports that state officials are concerned about bettors harassing athletes on social media over their lost bets, including college athletes.
In a press release, the Lottery Commission said:
“In light of recent media reports which indicated collegiate athletes in Ohio were the target of hate speech by sports bettors, the Ohio Lottery is reminding sports bettors that harassment of college and professional sports athletes is prohibited, and any sports bettor caught harassing an athlete after a losing bet will be placed on the involuntary exclusion list and prohibited from placing any future bets.“
Dayton Flyers men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant brought the issue of player harassment to light in a press conference after a Jan. 17 game against Davidson. Without mentioning sports betting, Grant defended his players against attacks from people who “have their own agenda,” saying:
“There’s some laws that have recently been enacted, that really to me — it could really change the landscape of what college sports is all about. And when we have people that make it about themselves and attack kids because of their own agenda, it sickens me.”
Ohio Casino Control Commission took up the issue at the next meeting
Following Grant’s comments, OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler addressed the issue at the next day’s commission meeting, lamenting the hate messages sent to players by bettors and noting that the commission has the authority to exclude anyone from betting in Ohio.
Schuler added, “… The commission has a responsibility to ensure that certainly those people cannot engage in legal sports gaming in the state of Ohio.”
Player harassment wasn’t originally on the agenda for the Jan. 18 meeting, but Schuler said, “I thought that it was important enough to bring up to make sure that anyone who’s listening understands that this type of behavior is not OK for anybody in any venue at all.”
Involuntary exclusion list is a promise, not a threat
Warnings from the OCCC and the Ohio Lottery Commission are not empty threats. Ohio implemented the Involuntary Exclusion List when casino gambling became legal in 2012. In August 2022, the Ohio General Assembly approved an additional sports gaming involuntary exclusion list. The lists are public information, and can be viewed on the OCCC website.
Pennsylvania’s involuntary exclusion list might be a useful comparison for what Ohio’s could look like in the future. That involuntary exclusion list currently names over 1,200 individuals. The two states have roughly the same population, with Pennsylvania totaling about 1.2 million more residents.
Pennsylvania is the second-most mature gambling market in the country after Nevada, with its online casinos and sports betting markets experiencing continued growth since launch in 2018. Ohio has not yet legalized online casinos.
Voluntary self-exclusion gets a rebranded expansion
In the spirit of responsible gambling, and to keep up with expanded gambling options in the state, the Lottery Commission and the OCCC expanded Ohio’s existing voluntary exclusion program this year. The program currently lets anyone voluntarily ban themselves from entering Ohio’s four casinos and seven racinos.
Officials added retail and online sports betting outlets to the program and re-branded the initiative “Time Out Ohio.”
In a Dec. 5 webinar introducing the program to gambling industry professionals, Cory Brown, manager of problem gambling services at the OCCC, said the branding change was intended to reach a wider audience.
“We are attempting to shift away from using the word ‘exclusion.’ We’ve heard here recently how the word can certainly be a deterrent for individuals engaging with our program, so we have rebranded it as ‘Time Out Ohio,’” Brown said.
Ohio gamblers can now, for the first time, opt into the program online via the portal at TimeOutOhio.com.
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