Ohio Casino Control Commission Approves $150K Fine Against Caesars Sportsbook

Posted on: January 18, 2023, 01:18h. 

Last updated on: February 12, 2023, 06:53h.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) approved a $150K fine for Caesars Sportsbook at its monthly meeting Wednesday. That’s after the regulatory body found the sports betting operator failed to comply with state regulations in ads for its site.

Caesars executives Jeff Hendricks (left at podium) and Eric Hession (right) appear before the Ohio Casino Control Commission during its Wednesday meeting in Columbus. The commission fined Caesars Sportsbook $150K for violating sports betting advertising standards. (Image: Casino.org)

Caesars was one of three operators to receive a notice of violation from the OCCC on January 5. The commission said Caesars’ ads failed to clearly show “a message designed to prevent problem gambling,” and did not include a phone number for an approved hotline. Also, the ads violated state guidelines for promoting free or risk-free bets when users must lose or offer their own money first.

DraftKings and BetMGM were the other operators cited earlier this month.

The OCCC put sports betting operators on notice last month before the January 1 launch, saying they needed to do a better job in promoting RG practices. They warned that operators faced fines for not including a phone number, or for making the RG messaging impossible to read or understand.

Caesars Apologizes for Violation

Caesars had the option of requesting a hearing in the matter but waived that right.

Jeff Hendricks, the regulatory and compliance senior vice president for Caesars Entertainment, and Eric Hession, president of Caesars Digital, spoke at Wednesday’s meeting in Columbus and said the company takes responsibility for the ads, which were posted by a third-party affiliate marketer.

We have various provisions that require a marketing affiliate to only use content that has been previously approved by Caesars Sportsbook,” Hendricks said. “In this instance, the affiliate did not follow those procedures. We believe that if they had the content, they would have had the perfect disclaimer and it would not have referenced free back content.”

Hession told the commission that Caesars terminated its national affiliate agreement with the third-party firm.

Neither Hendricks nor Hession mentioned the name of the affiliate during their remarks to the OCCC. The notice of violation sent earlier this month included examples of ads that were part of social media posts by Dimers.com. In those examples, the copy posted by Dimers included the term “free bets” if someone registered and made a $20 deposit into a new Caesars account.

The social media posts included graphics that appear to be designed by Caesars. The RG verbiage in those appears at the very bottom of those graphics in a very, very small type size. That was the kind of violation the commission warned operators about in the Dec. 23 letter.

Casino.org confirmed that Dimers was the affiliate terminated.

OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler had been blunt in previous remarks about the conduct of sports betting operators and their advertising practices. At Wednesday’s meeting, both he and OCCC Chair June Taylor cited Caesars for its actions and hoped that other operators took notice.

Schuler called the affiliates “the weakest link in the advertising chain,” and said they need to be brought under control.

“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,” Schuler said.

Ohio Cracks Down on Sportsbooks

DraftKings and BetMGM also face $150K fines for violating RG advertising standards. Before sports betting launched, the OCCC cited DraftKings for sending out more than 2,000 mailers promoting its app to people under the age of 21, the minimum age to bet in the state. The Boston-based company faces up to a $350K fine for that.

The commission has also cited Penn Sports Interactive after Barstool Sports – the media company that’s the namesake for Penn’s US sports betting operations – promoted the sportsbook before a University of Toledo football game. Ohio regulations prohibit marketing sports betting on college campuses.

Schuler Says Dayton Hoopsters Targeted

Earlier in the meeting, Schuler brought up an issue that took place Tuesday night. After the University of Dayton beat Davidson 68-61 in a men’s college basketball game, UD coach Anthony Grant mentioned during his press conference that his players received abusive comments.

While he did not specifically say they were gambling-related, an emotional Grant referred to “some laws that have recently been enacted” in his remarks.

In the Flyers’ previous game, a 63-62 loss Friday to Virginia Commonwealth, Dayton led by as many as 16 points in the first half and had the lead with just over a minute left in the game before VCU scored the game’s final five points.

Really to me, it could really change the landscape of what college sports is all about, and when we have people that make it about themselves and attack kids because of their own agenda, it sickens me,” Grant said, pausing momentarily to collect himself.

Schuler, during his opening remarks at Wednesday’s meeting, mentioned that the commission has the power to bar people from gambling in the state.

“I think that it’s incumbent upon us to look into that very power,” he said. “If social media is able to help us determine who these individuals are, that are speaking out hate to kids, then the commission has a responsibility to ensure that it is not going to serve those people.”