BLACK HAWK, CO – APRIL 30 : A customer purchase a ticket from a betting kiosk at Barstool Sportsbook … [+]
Denver Post via Getty Images
Sports betting has not yet gone live in Ohio, but the state’s gaming regulator has flexed its muscles in relation to one industry player’s advertising efforts ahead of the January 1 launch date.
On December 14, 2022, the Ohio Casino Control Commission (“OCCC”) announced that it had issued a $250,000 fine against Penn Sports Interactive and Barstool Sports in relation to a Barstool event at the University of Toledo last month. According to the Commission, Barstool—presently a marketing affiliate of Penn and soon to be a Penn subsidiary—violated two provisions of the state’s gaming regulations by advertising sports betting to college students and to underage consumers.
Still, state law offers Penn and Barstool the opportunity to be heard on the matter, and the state’s advertising rules seem to permit advertising of the sort at issue in this case. But if it stands, the OCCC’s administrative action could set a dangerous precedent for operators and affiliates nationwide.
Barstool Visits University of Toledo
On November 15, 2022, Barstool hosted the Barstool College Football Show from a stage at the University of Toledo, broadcasting before a live audience in advance of Toledo’s game against Bowling Green State University that night. Although the Barstool College Football Show is a live event, it also appears live on the internet, including on YouTube and Twitter, such that viewers can tune in from across the country and around the world.
Late in this installment, the Barstool hosts discussed the forthcoming launch of the Barstool Sportsbook. Host Kayce Smith announced a promo code that would allow users who “pre-register” for Barstool Sportsbook to access promotional funds for sports betting and Penn casino games. In addition, the online broadcast featured an on-screen banner showing the promo code.
The show otherwise featured some of the same components of many modern sports talk shows, with discussion touching on game forecasts and odds. Of course, betting lines are now a regular component of sports coverage, with national media companies regularly previewing contests with information relevant to sports betting.
Notice of Violation
On December 9, the OCCC delivered to Penn and Barstool a “Notice of Violation” asserting two violations by the companies. The Commission announced the Notice at its December 14 public hearing.
First, the Commission asserts that the companies “advertised or promoted on a college or university campus” in violation of Ohio Adm. Code 3775-16-08(E). That provision states in full:
A sports gaming proprietor must not advertise or promote on college or university campuses located in the state of Ohio except for generally available advertising, including television, radio, and digital advertising. Any advertisement shown to be targeting the area of a college or university campus is not generally available and will be a violation of this paragraph.
The rule extends to affiliate marketers like Barstool via …….