Ohio Online Gambling Fines – History And Tracker

Written By Mike Breen on May 8, 2023 - Last Updated on July 4, 2023

Soon after legal sports betting in Ohio went live on Jan. 1, 2023, state regulators made it clear that Ohio’s laws and guidelines for sportsbooks operating in the state would be strictly enforced. The first fines on online sportsbooks for violations in Ohio were announced on Jan. 5, just days after the statewide launch.

About fines on Ohio sportsbooks

The Ohio Casino Control Commission, which regulates and licenses sportsbooks in the state, has continued to show the industry that the state has a zero-tolerance approach for violating the laws and administrative rules surrounding sports betting.

PlayOhio is tracking the sportsbook fines in Ohio so far, including the dates all fines were approved by the OCCC and details of the infractions.

So far, Ohio gambling regulators have fined sportsbooks:

$1.29 million

Questions about Ohio sports betting fines

What do Ohio sports betting operators get fined for?

The OCCC’s fines since Ohio’s Jan. 1 sports betting launch have been related to violations of advertising, marketing and user recruitment rules, ranging from targeting underage individuals with marketing to claiming certain promotional offers are “free” when the user actually has to use their own money to receive the offer. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called out sportsbook companies shortly after the state’s sports betting launch, after several companies were already found in violation of Ohio’s laws regarding promotion and advertising. During a Jan. 3 press conference at the Ohio statehouse, DeWine said:

“The companies that are doing the massive advertising need to be aware that they’re being looked at very closely by the governor and the Casino Control Commission in regard to statements that they are making.”

Who regulates Ohio’s online sports betting industry?

The Ohio Casino Control Commission is the regulatory body that oversees the state’s four casinosskill-based amusement machinesfantasy contests and sports gaming. According to the OCCC, the Commission, “has the responsibility to ensure the integrity of gaming by licensing, regulating, investigating and enforcing state laws.”

The Commission members are appointed by the governor. In relation to sports betting, the OCCC is charged with regulating and enforcing rules regarding online and retail sportsbooks in the state. The rules the OCCC are in charge of enforcing range from licensing and technical requirements to advertising, marketing and user recruitment guidelines.

If a company is found in violation of any of the laws and rules relating to sports betting, the OCCC can choose to warn the company or it can vote to issue a fine. If it is determined that a fine is to be levied, the OCCC issues a notice of violation to the company with the fine amount. Once the notice of violation is issued, the company can choose to have a hearing in front of the Commission. Or the company can waive the right to a hearing and accept the fine.

Where does the money from Ohio gambling regulator fines go?

The fines the OCCC levies go into Ohio’s Sports Gaming Revenue Fund, which also includes the money Ohio receives from sports betting taxes and licensing fees. The majority of the Sports Gaming Revenue Fund is used to support education and local youth sports programs in Ohio, with 2% also going to support prevention and treatment efforts related to problem gambling.

Recent news on fines for Ohio sportsbooks

Detailing each Ohio sportsbook fine

PlayUp Sportsbook withdraws Ohio application, pays fine related to slots+ product

As part of a settlement agreement with the Ohio Casino Control Commission, Australian gaming operator PlayUp has withdrawn its request to bring its sportsbook to Ohio and has agreed to pay penalties related to one of its other betting products, slots+.

PlayUp had been notified in a Dec. 2 letter from OCCC’s Executive Director Matt Schuler of the commission’s intent to deny the company’s online sportsbook application due to an OCCC licensing suitability investigation that found “information regarding potential illegal gambling activity.”

The illegal activity was related to PlayUp’s online video slot machine product called slots+. During an OCCC meeting on Dec. 14, Schuler said the commission had issued a cease and desist notice to PlayUp and a third-party technology partner called Potent Games related to slots+.

Per the April 19 settlement agreement, PlayUp cannot resubmit its bid to bring its sportsbook or any other gaming product to Ohio for at least four years. The settlement also includes a $90,000 fine and $30,000 in restitution for Ohioans who used the company’s slots+ product. PlayUp Sportsbook is currently available to users in New Jersey and Colorado. PlayUp’s website says it is “coming soon” to Indiana and Iowa. 

BetMGM Sportsbook admonished for “free” promotions, responsible gambling violation

On March 15, the OCCC levied a $150,000 fine against BetMGM Sportsbook for violations of Ohio’s sports betting rules pertaining to advertising. According to OCCC Director of Communications Jessica Franks, BetMGM was fined because the Commission found that the company’s “advertisements lacked the required responsible gambling messaging.” Franks said the $150,000 fine was also levied on BetMGM because some of its “promotions or bonuses were advertised as ‘free’ or ‘risk-free‘ when patrons were required to incur a loss or risk their own money to obtain the promotion.”

BetMGM Sportsbook waived its right to an appeal ahead of the OCCC’s March 15 meeting and accepted the $150,000 fine. Representatives from BetMGM appeared at the March 15 meeting and spoke to the commission for 20 minutes, taking responsibility for the violations and explaining the company’s responsible gambling initiatives.

Barstool Sportsbook fined for marketing to individuals under 21

Penn Sports Interactive, the subsidiary of PENN Entertainment that operates in Ohio under the Barstool Sportsbook banner, was fined $250,000 on Feb. 15 for violating Ohio’s rules regarding marketing/advertising to individuals under the age of 21. In late 2022, PENN was issued a notice of violation of Ohio’s sports betting rules against promoting sports betting on or near college campuses.

The violation stemmed from a Barstool College Football Show video broadcast from near the campus of the University of Toledo in mid-November where Barstool Sportsbook was promoted.

“This apparent direct promotion to college students is completely at odds with responsible gaming and the law,” OCCC Executive Director Matthew Schuler said of the violation at the Commission’s December 2022 meeting.

OCCC Director of Communications Jessica Franks says the fine was due to Barstool violating “state law/Commission rules against advertising on, or targeting the area of, an Ohio college or university campus” and for “targeting individuals under the age of 21.”

PENN waived the right to appeal and accepted the fine at the OCCC’s Feb. 15 meeting. Chris Soriano, the company’s vice president and chief compliance officer, appeared at the meeting to take responsibility for the violation. “We accept responsibility for … reading the advertisement during the Barstool College Football Show,” Soriano said. “We recognize that we have violated the Ohio regulations and Ohio law regarding this, and again we admit that we have fallen short of the mark. We regret that this took place.” The PENN representatives said that going forward events in Ohio would be open only to those aged 21 and up.

DraftKings Sportsbook found in violation of multiple advertisement guidelines

Crown OH Gaming, LLC, doing business as DraftKings Sportsbook, has been fined a total of $500,000 for multiple violations of Ohio’s sports betting advertising regulations. OCCC Director of Communications Jessica Franks says the first violation was because DraftKings “mailed approximately 2,500 advertisements directly addressed to individuals under the age of 21.” The fine for the mailing violation was $350,000. The OCCC issued DraftKings a notice of violation over the incident on Dec. 30. The Commission said DraftKings mailed ads to individuals under 21 in November 2022. At the time of the notice of violation, OCCC Executive Director Matthew Schuler said:

“The Commission has been very clear about the rules and standards for sports gaming advertising with the industry, and are disappointed with the lack of compliance we have seen despite reminders. While we do not take administrative action lightly, DraftKings’ conduct in this case warrants the Commission’s intervention to ensure the integrity of sports gaming.”

DraftKings was separately fined $150,000 over further advertising and promotions violations. According to Franks, those violations were because “advertisements lacked the required responsible gambling messaging” and “promotions or bonuses were advertised as ‘free’ or ‘risk-free’ when patrons were required to incur a loss or risk their own money to obtain the promotion.”

Ohio rules state all sportsbooks must “clearly and conspicuously include messages designed to prevent problem gambling and provide information about how to access resources related to problem gambling.” The rules also state that a patron must not be required to spend any money to receive a promotional offer if it is advertised as being “free” or “risk-free.”

A representative for DraftKings appeared at the Feb. 15 OCCC meeting to accept the fine and explain the company’s commitment to advertising responsibly.

Caesars Sportsbook’s ads lacked responsible gambling message

On Jan. 18, during the first Ohio Casino Control Commission’s first meeting since sports betting went live in Ohio, the Commission levied its first fine against a sportsbook operating in the state. American Wagering Inc., a subsidiary of the William Hill company doing business in Ohio as Caesars Sportsbook, was issued a $150,000 fine at the meeting. OCCC Director of Communications Jessica Franks says Caesars was fined because its “advertisements lacked the required responsible gambling messaging” and its “promotions or bonuses were advertised as ‘free’ or ‘risk-free’ when patrons were required to incur a loss or risk their own money to obtain the promotion.”

Representatives from Caesars attended the Jan. 18 meeting to apologize for the violation and accept the fine. Caesars’ senior vice president of regulatory and compliance, Jeffrey Hendricks, told the commission, “We take responsible gaming and our regulatory compliance functions incredibly seriously.” Caesars blamed the advertising violation on a third-party “marketing affiliate,” saying they used advertising content on social media that had not been approved by Caesars. The Caesars reps said that the company ended its relationship with that affiliate and reached out to others the company works with to ensure future compliance.

Caesars’ action severing ties swiftly with the marketing affiliate was praised by the Commission.

“I think the fact that your organization terminated your affiliate relationship not only speaks volumes about your values and your philosophy and your leadership, but I think for us it’s a model in compliance,” OCCC’s then-chair June Taylor said at the meeting. “We hope that those who are listening also are learning.”

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Mike Breen

Mike Breen covers Ohio’s budding sports betting industry for PlayOhio, focusing on online sportsbooks and the state’s responsible gambling initiatives. He has over two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture in Ohio.

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