Ohio Intends To Deny PlayUp Sportsbook License Due To ‘Potential Illegal Gambling’

Written By Danny Cross on December 14, 2022 - Last Updated on December 21, 2022
PlayUp Sportsbook Ohio

The Ohio Casino Control Commission intends to deny PlayUp Sportsbook’s online sports betting application after a licensing investigation uncovered “information regarding potential illegal gambling activity.”

OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler notified PlayUp of the decision in a letter dated Dec. 2, which outlined violations related to the company’s online slots game called slots+.

During the Dec. 14 OCCC meeting, Schuler said commission staff had issued a cease and desist notice to PlayUp Sportsbook and a tech partner called Potent Games.

That notice could lead to the commission formally deciding to deny PlayUp’s application, depending on how commissioners vote on the issue during an upcoming public meeting.

Ohio sports betting is set to kick off on Jan. 1, and PlayUp Sportsbook was among dozens of companies looking to open online sportsbooks in the state. 

Ohio notified PlayUp Sportsbook of denial, offers hearing

The “potential illegal activity” turned up during the state’s licensing suitability investigation, which is a standard step before licenses are issued.

According to the Dec. 2 letter from Schuler, the violations related to accepting illegal wagers through PlayUp’s slots+ online slot machine game after April 16, 2015, “including the slots, contests, lottery, virtual sports, match 3, and scratchers offerings, from any individual located in Ohio after that date.”

It also says there were violations related to:

  • “… conducting, participating in that conduct, or facilitating the conduct of the slots+ product in the state by or through affiliates or those in control of PlayUp, including the slots, contests, lottery, virtual sports, match 3, and scratchers offerings.”
  • “Engaging in false, deceptive, misleading, or otherwise impermissible advertising … by advertising the slots+ product as legal gaming in the state of Ohio.”

PlayUp has the right to a hearing on the matter and has requested one, Schuler said. 

Once that process has occurred, the commission will vote on any action against PlayUp in a public meeting

In the meantime, PlayUp will not be licensed nor permitted to operate in this state,” Schuler said. “To honor the hearing process I am not going to provide any further comments. I want to stress the importance of the commission’s suitability investigations and the very high standards set by the general assembly for all applicants and licensees.”

Both PlayUp and Potent Games have taken steps to comply with the cease and desist notice, Schuler said.

The PlayUp slots+ website does not currently list Ohio among the states where it is legal to play.

A PlayUp representative sent PlayOhio the following statement:

“PlayUp received the Commission Notice for Opportunity for Hearing and is reviewing its provisions with legal counsel. At all times, PlayUp believed it was operating within the bounds of Ohio law. As noted by the executive director, PlayUp acted diligently to come into compliance with the cease-and-desist order. PlayUp remains committed to compliance with all Ohio laws.”

PlayUp had partnered with JACK Casino Cleveland

PlayUp Sportsbook in July submitted an application to partner with JACK Casino Cleveland to operate an online sportsbook in Ohio.

The sportsbook is listed as JACK Cleveland’s first mobile management services provider. JACK Cleveland had earlier partnered with MaximBet Sportsbook as its second MMSP before that sportsbook was shuttered by its parent company.

JACK Entertainment declined to comment on the PlayUp matter to PlayOhio.

JACK Entertainment is still moving forward with its betJACK online sportsbook, which was launched in the spring as a free-money app. All betJACK Sportsbook accounts will transition to real-money accounts after Jan. 1.

“In preparation for legal sports betting in Ohio, JACK Cleveland Casino has created its own mobile sports betting product, betJACK. Ohio-headquartered, JACK Cleveland Casino will proudly launch its homegrown betJACK app and website offering real money sports betting under its Type A license beginning January 1, 2023,” Aleksandra Breault, JACK Entertainment director of public relations and communications, told PlayOhio in September.

JACK last week released a new commercial for the betJACK platform, which touts its status as the only sports betting company located in Ohio.

OCCC licenses Bally’s, Underdog, Betway, Out the Gate and Lori’s Roadhouse

The commission did green-light a few more online and retail sportsbooks during the Dec. 14 meeting. 

Butler County, just north of Cincinnati, landed what will likely be its only retail sportsbook (based on population size): Lori’s Roadhouse, a honky-tonk music venue and bar

The following sportsbooks also received sports betting licenses:

  • Bally’s (online and retail — partnered with Cleveland Browns)
  • Out the Gate (online and retail — partnered with SPIRE Institute)
  • Underdog (online — partnered with Cincinnati Reds)
  • Betway (online — partnered with Belterra park)

Ohio has now approved a total of 20 online sportsbooks and 22 retail sportsbooks ahead of the Jan. 1 universal start date.

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Danny Cross

Danny Cross is the managing editor of PlayOhio, where he covers the legislative and regulatory process of legalizing sports betting and the latest news on Ohio sportsbooks. Cross joined PlayOhio from Pro Football Focus, where he wrote and edited articles on the NFL, fantasy football and betting.

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