Ohio Sports Betting: Commission Wants Ads Checked for Responsible Gaming


At most workplaces, the most wonderful time of the year is also the least productive. But that’s definitely not the case for the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC).

Ohio Casino Control CommissionOhio Casino Control Commission
Members of the Ohio Casino Control Commission meet on Dec. 14 in Columbus. On Friday, the OCCC issued a memo to sports betting industry stakeholders saying it’s calling on sports betting operators to review their advertising materials to ensure it meets state guidelines for responsible gambling and that the pieces do not target people under 21. (Image:

There are now less than 10 days before the state flips the switch on sports betting. OCCC staffers have been working to complete application reviews and inspections for those online apps and brick-and-mortar sportsbooks launching. They’ve also been working to ensure the applicants adhere to the state’s guidelines for responsible gambling (RG) in their advertisements and commercials.

Case in point: On Friday, the commission sent out a notice that noted “the advertising actions of the industry at large has been concerning” over the past few weeks. Just last week, the OCCC announced it intends to fine Penn Sports Interactive at least $250,000 after it determined Penn’s Barstool Sportsbook promoted its site and targeted people under age 21 during a Barstool Sports College Football Show held last month at the University of Toledo.

The OCCC released its standards for sports betting advertising in June. In Friday’s note, it said that it’s seen operators break three “core tenets” of the advertising standards. The three are: all ads must include RG messages; the audience needs to easily see, read, or hear the RG messaging; and the ads cannot target anyone under 21.

As a result, the OCCC wants operators to “immediately review” all of their materials ahead of the Jan. 1 launch to ensure it meets the state’s RG standards and that they don’t target the underaged.

“We understand mistakes happen, but it is not a mistake when it appears to be this consistent,” the memo stated.

Concerns About Helpline Numbers

Another significant concern is the problem gambling helpline number. Ohio regulations do not require a specific number. However, the guidelines indicate ads and commercials “should contain” either the state’s toll-free helpline (1-800-589-9966) or either 1-800 numbers from the National Council on Problem Gambling (1-800-522-4700 or 1-800-GAMBLER).

The guidelines also call for RG messages to be “conspicuous.” The state does not give specific requirements but says it’s inexcusable for those messages to be “the smallest font, lowest voice, or fastest speech” in the marketing piece.

An advertisement should not have to be zoomed in on, slowed down, or the volume turned up for an individual to see or hear a helpline number,” the OCCC wrote Friday

The state also considers multi-jurisdictional ads as non-compliant.

OCCC Doesn’t Want to Police Ads

While Ohio plans to act against Barstool, the commission told industry stakeholders Friday that it does not want to manage sports betting marketing materials.

In return, state gaming officials want sportsbooks to act responsibly.

Act in accordance with your stated goals on responsible gambling,” the OCCC memo stated. “We look forward to helping the industry do so.”

So far, the OCCC has conditionally approved 20 mobile management services providers. Those are the online sports betting operators partnering with Ohio casinos, sports teams or other businesses. In addition, the commission has similarly approved a dozen management services providers planning to open up to 19 retail sportsbooks. However, not all of those retail sites or online apps will be launching on Jan. 1.

Some, including Betfred, BetMGM, Hard Rock and JACK Casino Cleveland, have already announced their plans for New Year’s Day.

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