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Sports betting companies already facing fines in Ohio

At least four companies have been sent notices of violation. One may have its license denied after potential illegal gambling activity.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When the calendar flipped to a new year in Ohio, 29 different entities launched sports betting operations in the state.

“On the whole, it was a successful launch,” said Jessica Franks, communications director for the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

But the launch did have at least a few snags that could lead to fines for some companies.

“We gave them explicit guidance twice in the week before launch, including examples of some of the issues we were seeing and how those needed to be fixed, and so the fact that we continue to see repeated violations is very disappointing to the commission and is why we need to take action against some of our operators in order to get them into compliance,” she said.

Notices of violation were sent to several companies. BetMGM, DraftKings and Caesers were accused of having advertising or promotions that violated the law by either including the words “free” or “risk free” or by not properly displaying the required problem gambling messages. Each company is facing up to $150,000 in fines.

Penn Sports Interactive and DraftKings were accused or either targeting college campus areas or advertising to those younger than 21, or both. DraftKings is facing a fine of up to $350,000 for this violation while Penn Sports Interactive is facing $250,000 fine.

Meanwhile, PlayUp may have its license denied before it’s even allowed to operate because the commission reportedly uncovered information regarding potential illegal gambling activity.

These notices were sent out after information was collected, either by staffers who have investigated or because of complaints from consumers, Franks said.

As for the process from here, Franks said the companies that received notices will have 30 days to request a hearing. If that happens, the commission will be represented by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, and the companies can bring in their own lawyers. That hearing operates much like a mini trial, where attorneys can submit evidence and call witnesses. An independent hearing examiner will oversee the proceedings and then issue a report and recommendation, which the commission can accept or modify. Any final action would be taken in a public commission meeting. If the companies choose to not request a hearing, they can try to enter a settlement agreement that could end in potential fines.

“The commission, when we say something, we mean something,” Franks said. “The industry claims to be a champion for responsible gaming practices, but we need their actions to match their words as well, so again, just really disappointed, need them to get into compliance with all of our rules and standards, and if we have to take action against a company to obtain that compliance, we will do so.”

10TV reached out to each company mentioned in this story.

DraftKings responded with the following statement:

“DraftKings is committed to the highest standards of consumer protections and responsible gaming. We do not comment on pending regulatory matters.”

Penn Sports Interactive submitted the following information:

As it relates to the Ohio Casino Control Commission issuing a notice of violation to Penn Sports Interactive, a wholly owned subsidiary of PENN Entertainment, we look forward to having the opportunity to address the matter with the Ohio Casino Control Commission through its regulatory process. What happened was Barstool Sports held one of its College Football Shows on the campus of University of Toledo. While there is a live component, 90% of the audience views the program on YouTube and approximately 86 percent of those who view the program online are over the age of 25. The mistake PSI made in Ohio is it should have touched base with the Ohio regulators prior to the College Football Show, and it should have reviewed with them a message broadcast online that the Barstool Sportsbook plans to go live on January 1st. The Ohio Casino Control Commission considered that advertising on campus. Again, it was our mistake to not clear our activities with our regulators first.

Going forward, PENN and Barstool Sports have implemented a new policy for the 2023 season, whereby the Barstool Sports College Football Show will require live audience members to show proof of being 21+.

Nothing is more important to PENN than its gaming licenses and the positive, honest and transparent relationships that we maintain with our regulators. And we are deeply committed for both personal and professional reasons to responsible gaming and a culture of compliance.

The Barstool Sportsbook recently passed the Responsible Gambling Council’s (“RGC”) RG Check. The RGC has been a leader in the prevention of problem gambling in Canada and globally for more than 35 years. Penn Interactive, the direct parent entity of PENN Sports Interactive, became one of the first U.S. operators to voluntarily go through the RGC’s exhaustive RG Check accreditation process. Notably, the RGC found “Penn Interactive’s overall approach to RG is comprehensive. A strong commitment to harm mitigation and prevention contributes to the quality of the program.” In addition, RGC found that “Penn Interactive’s RG policies document a clear commitment to prevent marketing materials that could be misleading. Potentially vulnerable players, including those who are underage or enrolled in exclusion, are appropriately considered.”

PlayUp also released a statement saying:

"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."

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