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Ads for sports betting services are everywhere. Not all of them are following Ohio's rules


If you've turned on the TV or scrolled through social media in the past few months, there's a high likelihood you've encountered a seemingly countless amount of ads promoting sports betting services.

Starting Jan. 1, sports wagering will become legal in Ohio. In the new year, companies that have spent the past year trying to grab the public's attention will be able to open their brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and begin operating sports betting apps in the state.

This news has sports betting companies excited, but the Ohio Casino Control Commission is warning them to be cautious of breaking the state's core tenets in advertising campaigns.

What the rules say

First, every advertisement that airs on television and radio, or gets posted on a social media platform, must include a responsible gambling message that needs to be clearly stated or visible within the ad.

Sports betting companies are also not allowed to market products to people under 21, which includes a ban on any kind of advertising on college campuses.

Last week, the control commission released a statement saying that some companies have been consistently breaking these rules and asked each company to review their advertisements to avoid future fines or legal action.

"They really needed to take heed of our responsible gambling message requirements that need to be on these ads," Jessica Franks of the Ohio Casino Control Commission said. "They need to be conspicuous. If it's a radio or TV ad, it can't be spoken at the fastest possible speed so that it's there but it's really hard to understand. Or for print, where you have to zoom in to find the responsible gambling message and the helpline number."

One alleged violation that drew the commission's attention came during a live broadcast of The Barstool College Football Show on the University of Toledo campus last month.

The broadcast included an advertisement read live for the Barstool Sportsbook, which is owned and operated by Penn Interactive.

While gambling on college sports is legal in Ohio, the control commission says that because the promotion occurred on a college campus it violated the state's rules.

"We have taken action against one of our service providers, Penn Interactive, because they were hosting a college football show on a university campus," Franks said. "That in and of itself isn't against the rules, but as part of that event there was an ad announced to the crowd and to those watching encouraging them to sign up for a particular product."

The commission has outlined rules to prevent companies from gearing ads to underaged people which includes a ban on sports betting promotions on platforms seen predominantly by people under 21 like a school newspaper or around campus.

This also means that while professional sports teams like the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals can partner with gambling companies to build sportsbooks in or near their stadiums, you won't see one for Buckeye fans inside Ohio Stadium anytime soon.

Additionally, Franks points out that ads promoting "risk-free" or "free" bets to new customers cannot be deceptive and must disclose if there is a fee or other requirement to access gambling funds through the sportsbook.

"If an ad says that someone will get $100 in free bets, those bets truly have to be free to the consumer. They shouldn't have to wager any of their money or put their money at risk in order to obtain those free wagers," Franks said.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission says it has a staff monitoring official advertisements for violations but asks the public to report any ads they see that may be in violation of state rules.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.