Will Michigan Sportsbooks Ever Face Fines Like Ohio Operators?

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Our neighbor to the Southeast rang in the new year with the launch of regulated sports betting. Jessica Franks, communications director for the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) said, “On the whole, it was a successful launch.” Ohio’s launch was actually quite successful, bringing in over 11 million bets on opening weekend. Despite the success, however, some operators are facing scrutiny and fines.

Three of Michigan’s well-loved sportsbooks are facing fines of up to $150,000 each for violations of advertising laws that failed to follow the responsible gambling message during Ohio’s launch. 

According to the OCCC, DraftKings, Caesars, and BetMGM allegedly marketed ads that used phrases such as “free” and “risk-free” for promotional offers to new customers. Using terms like these is strictly prohibited by the OCCC. Additionally, in Ohio, all sports betting advertisements must clearly display the state gambling hotline, which the three operators failed to do. 

For DraftKings, this was the second strike from the OCCC. The operator was also accused of mailing advertisements to individuals under 21 (the legal gambling age in Ohio). This violation came with a fine of $350,000. 

You can read more about the incidents here

What This Could Mean for Michigan

Since the government opened the door for states to legalize sports betting in 2018, we have seen operators get creative when advertising to customers. Additionally, supervision and management of this rapid-growing market have been handed over to the states. Some of these operators are spending millions of dollars every month on advertising.

As more states are legalizing sports wagering, the industry is taking a stand and developing stricter and stricter responsible gambling and advertising policies.

With that being said, advertising restrictions do not tend to vary greatly from state to state. We begin to see the contrast in the enforcement of the violations. 

Marc Edelman, a professor at the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College said, “Most of the states that are legalizing and regulating sports gambling, they say they’re regulating and taxing, but it’s really more about taxation than about regulation.”

Clearly, we see Ohio is taking violations very seriously and not just a “slap on the wrist” for sportsbook operators in the Buckeye state. The implications of this beg the question of whether or not Michigan sportsbooks could ever face similar consequences. 

Michigan’s Stance on Violations

Unlike Ohio, which has standard fine amounts for violations, the Michigan Gaming Control Board takes violations case by case. 

“Lawful Internet Gaming Act and Lawful Sports Betting Act and the associated rules do not specify fine amounts. Following an investigation of an alleged violation, the MGCB executive director would recommend to the Board an appropriate fine based on the licensee’s action. The Board would vote on the recommendation at a public meeting,” said MGCB Communications Specialist Mary Kay Bean.

One of the most notable fines issued by the MGCB was in 2015 when they issued a $529,500 fine to Greektown Casino LLC for 25 various violations between 2010-2014.

Since the legalization of online gambling in Michigan in 2021 the MGCB has emphasized and promoted responsible wagering. They have partnered closely with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to effectively battle illegal gambling operations. 

The MGCB hosts six public board meetings annually. During these meetings, they grant supplier and operator licenses and discuss any possible violations by licensed operators. Any reports of violations are brought to board members to decide what penalties if any, to enforce. 

With the recent violations issued by Michigan’s neighbor, we can only begin to wonder how Michigan will handle similar violations moving forward based on the OCCC’s actions. It’s safe to say the MGCB will be taking note of Ohio’s stance and continue to refine what is best for Michigan casino and sports betting fans.

Mac Daniel is a 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