DraftKings, Betmgm, and Caesars Sportsbooks Face Scrutiny Just South of the Border

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Three of Michigan’s most popular online casino and sports betting operators are facing criticism after breaking advertising laws during the recent launch of sports betting in Ohio. 

Our neighbor to the southeast recently followed Michigan’s footsteps by launching sports wagering for adults over the age of 21 and within state lines. Eight of the sixteen approved sportsbooks went live at 12:01 a.m. on January 1st, 2023. Within the first two days of operation, industry-leading location verification company, GeoComply, reported more than 11 million sports betting transactions in Ohio

The recent launch also unveiled some news of irresponsible gambling practices already surfacing in the state. According to reports filed by the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC), three online sports betting brands were facing fines after violating state standards related to responsible gambling messaging. 

The OCCC even reminded operators many times before launch that all advertising content must follow state law.

“The sports gaming industry has received multiple reminders of the rules and standards for advertising and promotions, yet continues to disregard Ohio law,” said OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler during a statement concerning the recent fines. “These repeated violations leave the Commission no choice but to pursue administrative action to bring operators into compliance. The Commission takes responsible gambling seriously – and expects the industry to value the same.”

The three operators facing the fines, DraftKings, Caesars, and BetMGM, are some of the most popular sportsbooks in the Great Lake State.

Where they went wrong?

According to the OCCC, the three online sportsbook brands broke state advertising laws for Ohio. All sports betting advertising in Ohio must clearly and visibly display the state gambling hotline and not include any terms like, “free” or “risk-free.”

State officials and the governor said they were watching closely to determine if companies were breaking advertising laws. Out of the eight sportsbooks that went live on launch day, these three operators were busted. 

Days after Ohio launched, Gov. Mike DeWine reminded operators how closely state officials will be monitoring advertising in Ohio, saying, “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.”

Potential Fines

The three operators were issued fines of $150,000 each for violating state standards for sports betting operators.

DraftKings, Caesars, and BetMGM will have a chance to appeal the fine. If appealed, however, they would go to a hearing before the OCCC, who would vote on the issue. If the fines were not removed, the funds would be placed in the state’s Sports Gaming Revenue Fund. 

DraftKings Facing Additional Fines

Unfortunately for one sports betting operator, DraftKings, they’re having to pay even more due to a mail advertising mistake by the company. Before the launch on January 1st, DraftKings faced criticism for sending mail to over 2,500 Ohioans under the legal gambling age of 21. DraftKings was issued a fine of $350K for that offense on December 14th. At that same meeting, the OCCC also announced a fine of $250K against Barstool Sportsbook for advertising at a college campus event. 

Jessica Franks, Director of Communications for the OCCC, was disappointed in the failure to upload simple rules, stating, “Our rules and standards for advertising have been in place for months, and the industry has been reminded numerous times about the need for them to follow our rules. The fact that we needed to issue explicit guidance to them twice in the week before the launch of sports gaming in Ohio is really disappointing.”

DraftKings is facing a potential fine of $500K for its mistake in Ohio. It will be interesting to see if this affects the operator’s performance or promotions in Michigan.

Mac Daniel is a Michigan native and freelance writer for PlayOnlineCasino and PlayOnlineSportsBetting. He has experience writing about a wide variety of topics, including healthcare, tourism, non-profit organizations, and most recently casino and sportsbetting news. To check out more of his work, visit: playonlinemichigan.com