Ohio regulators continued their clamp down on gambling advertising Wednesday when they announced that gaming operators would no longer be able to offer promotions on “unrelated consumer transactions.” The move means that companies like Fanatics, which previously offered retail customers promotional opportunities to draw them into sports betting, will no longer be able to do so.
All operators in the state are required to show that they do not offer, or have stopped offering, “any directed consumer promotions, based on non-gaming consumer transactions” by 5 p.m. July 7, according to an Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) letter sent to stakeholders Wednesday.
As an example, Fanatics, which is live in a limited capacity in Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Tennessee, will no longer be able to offer customers buying sports gear a promotional opportunity to try out the new sportsbook. According to the OCCC, other companies have used similar tactics, including a food delivery app on which a popup ad to “deposit $5, get $50 in bonus bets at BetMGM” appeared after ordering.
“While the Fanatics promotion is probably the most prominent example, we are aware of others where an individual making a purchase of a non-gaming product or service received a sports gaming bonus offer,” OCCC Director of Communications Jessica Franks said in an email to Sports Handle. “The Commission believes these sorts of promotions do not comply with Ohio law and also contribute to the normalization of gambling, which is why we issued today’s guidance.”
Fanatics declined to comment for this story.
OCCC: Promotions ‘normalize’ gambling
In the letter to stakeholders, the OCCC wrote, “These promotions are targeted to specific consumers based upon their consumer purchase with an affiliate company. These types of promotions target these consumers with a sports gaming promotion inducement specifically because of their unrelated consumer transaction. These types of promotions include offers made to a consumer following the consumer transaction on the affiliate marketer’s website or application or made following the consumer transaction to the consumer’s e-mail address, by mail, or other direct communication.”
The reason behind the tightened guidelines is the commission’s view that the promotions in question would “normalize” gambling and damage the commission’s efforts around responsible gambling.
“The Commission is cognizant that research demonstrates that the normalization of gambling increases the risk for problem gambling, especially among young people,” the OCCC letter reads. “Therefore, these types of promotions, offered to consumers based on their non-gaming related purchases, threaten the integrity of sports gaming in Ohio and are not permitted.”
The commission also believes that the promotions are essentially direct marketing to a specific kind of consumer, and even if it didn’t ban the promotions, the marketing tactic would be subject to existing advertising rules, including age verification and the option to opt out. Ohio also prohibits direct marketing to anyone on its voluntary self-exclusion list, and it seems difficult (if not impossible) for a restaurant, delivery service, merchandise retailer, or other non-gaming business to determine which customers are on gaming exclusion lists.
The new rules are open for comment until July 12.
Along with Massachusetts, Ohio has been steadfast in strengthening its advertising regulations and working to protect consumers. The OCCC has fined multiple operators, including BetMGM, Caesars, and DraftKings, for violating advertising rules. The commission also flagged Barstool Sportsbook ahead of the state’s Jan. 1 launch of mobile sportsbooks for allegedly targeting college students.