COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — One digital sportsbook licensee will owe a $150,000 fine for online advertising that breached state law and commission regulations, the Ohio Casino Control Commission voted unanimously Wednesday at its first meeting since the state’s sports gambling launch.
The OCCC sent American Wagering Inc. — affiliated with Caesars Sportsbook — and two other sports betting proprietors violation notices on Jan. 5 for advertisements across several platforms. The ads in question, the commission said in the violation notices, did not include necessary problem gambling messaging and improperly offered viewers “free” or “risk-free” bonuses.
According to the notice sent to Caesars, Twitter ads by an affiliate marketer pledged $100 in promotional “free bets” — if the bettor registered for Caesars Sportsbook and loaded $20 onto their account.
DraftKings and BetMGM also received similar violation notices. All three were given the choice to either request a hearing or settle the matter directly with the commission, which will vote on the final outcome.
Caesars waived its right to a trial and settled directly with the commission at its Wednesday meeting. Eric Hession, the co-president of sports and online gaming for Caesars Entertainment, told the commission Caesars had since fired the affiliate marketer that created the Twitter ads and warned the rest of its advertisers.
“We are sorry for the issue that was identified here, and we were eager to work quickly with commission staff to settle this,” said Jeff Hendricks, assistant general counsel for Caesars Entertainment.
OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler commended Caesars for its efforts at compliance, calling affiliate marketers “the weakest link.”
The string of Jan. 5 violation notices came after the commission had already issued two to DraftKings and Barstool parent Penn Entertainment before the state’s universal start date. Both stare down a possible fine in the hundreds of thousands for advertising that the commission said directly targeted people under 21.
In sum, the proposed penalties are some of the heftiest the commission has ever issued — more than $1 million so far.