Ohio: Caesars gets $150K fine for violating advertising standards

The Ohio Casino Control Commission approved a $150,000 fine against Caesars Sportsbook during a meeting on Wednesday. The regulator found the company violated advertising standards, as some of its ads did not include conspicuous messaging for promoting responsible gambling practices or an approved telephone number for a problem gambling hotline. 

Just two weeks after the launch of sports betting in the state, the commission has been vigilant in citing sportsbooks for violating rules. Caesars was one of the three that received notices earlier this month, with DraftKings and BetMGM included in the list as well. 

Even before the January 1 launch, the OCCC cited DraftKings in a separate violation after it sent promotional mailers to individuals under the age of 21, which is the minimum age to place a sports bet in the state. It faces a potential $350,000 fine for that violation. 

The commission also found Penn Sports Interactive violated rules against promoting sports betting on college campuses during a November event before a University of Toledo football game. Penn faces a $250,000 fine for the violation.

Caesars had the right to a hearing over its violations but chose not to pursue that, reports The Center Square. Caesars Digital President Eric Hession said the errors were the result of a third-party affiliate that was promoting the sports betting app. Caesars has terminated its national agreement with that company, he added.

Before the commission approved the fine, OCCC Chair June Taylor commended Caesars for acknowledging the issue and taking action to fix it. “The fact that your organization terminated this 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,” she said.

OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler called the affiliates “the weakest link in the advertising chain,” and said they need to be under scrutiny. “If every licensee followed the path that Mr. Hession just laid out for Caesars Sportsbook, I believe 90% to 95% of the problem we are trying to solve would be rectified,” he added.

As the fourth-largest state in the nation to legalize online sports betting, Ohio stands to generate millions of dollars in tax revenue from the revenues sports betting operators generate. The state has approved 17 online operators and 13 physical sportsbooks, plus approximately 700 kiosks installed in lottery retailers across the state.

The commission announced at Wednesday’s meeting that the state has already received $39.4 million in licensing fees from the sports betting operators and their Ohio business partners. The state law calls for the state’s pro sports teams, casinos and racinos to get preference for licenses, but other entities, such as the Hall of Fame Village in Canton, have been approved as well.

Additionally, WynnBET received its online sports betting license at Wednesday’s meeting, marking the final approval of sportsbooks that submitted applications last year. PlayUp received a notice of intent to deny a license over online gaming violations in Ohio; Prophet Exchange withdrew its application; while Fubo Sportsbook and MaximBet are no longer in business.