And as the state nears its Jan. 1, 2024 first anniversary of the launch of legal, regulated Ohio sports betting, that proactive stance continues.
Earlier this week, the Ohio Lottery and the Ohio Casino Control Commission announced that Ohio will be the first state to seamlessly allow residents to self-exclude from all online gambling sites.
It’s a major step beyond the self-exclusion programs many states offer to enable at-risk gamblers to gain assistance in avoiding a temptation to visit retail casinos and potentially cause major financial harm. “Time Out Ohio” is the name of one such program.
Residents are offered the ability to sign up and then block themselves from entering a brick-and-mortar casino for one year, five years, or to give themselves a lifetime ban.
If a member of the program subsequently is caught within a casino floor, they would have to forfeit any gains, would be escorted off the premises and possibly even charged with trespassing if casino officials so desire.
The brick-and-mortar casino program, then, has plenty of teeth. But 90% of more of modern gambling now takes place online rather than on-site, typically with apps installed in the smartphones of consumers.
So Ohio regulators have set up a partnership with Gamban, a company that enables online self-exclusion and which already offers its product in countries including the United Kingdom, Finland, and Norway.
Interested consumers can sign up with Time Out Ohio to claim a fully-paid, one-year Gamban licence. Once the player signs up to and installs this product, it is designed to be difficult to remove in case an at-risk gambler becomes tempted to relapse.
“Time Out Ohio is a fantastic voluntary program that helps individuals who are at risk at a time when gambling harm is increasing,” Gamban co-founder Matt Zarb-Cousin said in a statement.“Our goal is to help people regain control and balance of their life, without compromising on the benefits of new technology. Through this partnership, they can do that.
“We hope other states will follow the lead of Ohio, which has been incredibly forward-thinking at a time when mobile sports betting across the US is growing rapidly.”
Gamban already has national partnerships with FanDuel, Unibet, and Bally’s that provide free access to its software.
Advertising “Gimmicks” Also Being Addressed in Ohio
A proposal before the Ohio Casino Control Commission seeks to ensure that Ohio sportsbooks cannot allow consumers to obtain gambling bonuses through non-gaming transactions. The suggested amendment arose in response to a promotion by newcomer sportsbook Fanatics, which in May offered a promotion that, for example, meant a $100 purchase of Fanatics merchandise would result in a $100 credit to the consumer’s sportsbook account.
Fanatics quickly dropped the promotion after hearing from Ohio regulators, and their Massachusetts brethren soon signaled that such a program would not fly in that state, either. Fanatics also operates a sportsbook in Kentucky, Maryland, and Tennessee.
Just to ensure compliance, the commission sent a letter to operators in early July clarifying their stance.
“These promotions are targeted to specific consumers based upon their consumer purchase with an affiliate company,” read the commission’s letter. “These types of promotions target these consumers with a sports gaming promotion inducement specifically because of their unrelated consumer transaction.
“These types of promotions also 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 letter added that non-gaming transactions becoming tied to gambling easily could negatively impact the commission’s efforts to address problem gamblers’ issues.
“The Commission considers responsible gambling to be a cornerstone of the integrity of sports gaming in Ohio. These types of consumer promotions, if permitted, would contribute to the normalization of gambling – providing gambling rewards from simply engaging in non-gaming consumer spending activity.
“The Commission is cognizant that research demonstrates that the normalization of gambling increases the risk for problem gambling, especially among young people. 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.”
Also clarified under the new amendments – which would formally codify the commission’s stance from the July letter – would be the fact that no operator can offer bonuses of any kind to anyone enrolled in the voluntary self-exclusion program.
The public comment period for insights to the Ohio Casino Control Commission ended on Nov. 30, but regulators have yet to publish any information on the result of that feedback.
The tone for Ohio’s aggressive focus on sportsbook regulations became evident even before the Jan. 1, 2023 launch of legal sports betting. The commission last December sent DraftKings a violation notice for directly mailing underage residents offers to sign up for the sportsbook. The company was fined $500,000, with a second violation in January for not including mandated problem gambling language in advertising factoring into the size of the fine.
Penn Entertainment – which at the time operated the Barstool sportsbook – paid a $250,000 fine for hosting a college football program at the University of Toledo in November 2022, violating a state regulation against on-campus promotions.
Caesars and BetMGM, meanwhile, each settled for a $150,000 fine for not including required problem gambling language such as the problem gambling hotline phone number.