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The Takeover of Sports Betting in Ohio

Men’s Basketball vs NKU | Photo by Monica Brutto | The Wright State Guardian

Sports betting has only been legal in Ohio for just over two months, but it has already taken over the state’s professional and college-level scene.

Ohio became the thirty sixth state to legalize sports betting on Jan. 1 of this year, opening up a market that has already stirred massive controversy.

From legalization to implementation of sports betting in Ohio, sports betting has been plagued by illegal advertising, harassment and gambling problems.

How did it explode?

Despite just starting, Ohio’s quick start to sports gambling has made the state one of the most profitable in the United States. PlayOhio projected that people could place up to $8 billion in bets in 2023, making Ohio the fourth largest in the nation in monetary bets.

Before Jan. 1, companies were already sending advertisements to Ohioans to sign up early. This is because, while sports betting started on Jan. 1, the state governor signed the bill legalizing sports betting over a year earlier.

Ohio Governor Mike Dewine signed sports betting into law in December 2021, but the eventual start date of the industry was set to Jan. 1, 2023. This gave betting companies and the Ohio government one year to set up.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission is the regulatory group charged with controlling gambling companies. After the state governor passed the bill, the State Controlling Board raised the OCCC’s funding by $2.6 million to keep betting companies in line.

“We had just over a year to build the regulatory framework and license everyone that wanted to be involved. It was a really big lift for our agency,” Jessica Franks, communications director for the OCCC, said. “This was probably the largest expansion we’ve had to deal with.”

Because of a universal start date and a year to prepare, instead of a trickle effect of betting companies starting in Ohio, 16 mobile operators and 13 in-person operators all launched simultaneously, causing a flood of companies to enter the space.

“Everybody had to be able to start on the first day,” Franks said. “[The bill] gave the commission’s executive director the ability to set the start date. It just had to be universal, and it could be no later than January 1.”

Off-the-court factors

Sports betting has stirred controversy at the local level, especially in Dayton. Fans can bet on Wright State basketball and University of Dayton basketball games, but betting has become another element that affects athletics off-court.

At UD, many Flyer fans had bet on the men’s basketball team to win over Virginia Commonwealth University on Jan. 13; but, after the Flyers lost by one point, some UD fans took to social media to harass and threaten Dayton’s players. After the next game, UD head coach Anthony Grant spoke out to those fans.

“They have families … They don’t deserve that. Mental health is real, so if you’re a Flyer fan, I ask you to understand [that] you’re dealing with young people,” Grant said. “Take a step back and reevaluate your priorities, and if you can’t, we don’t need you.”

Wright State has also had its share of betting on games, with fans able to bet on both men’s and women’s basketball action. Head women’s basketball coach Kari Hoffman spoke on sports betting after a recent game.

“When money’s involved, and adults are getting involved, it’s really difficult to let college students be college students,” Hoffman said. “I don’t think they should have the world on their shoulders. I think they should just be able to play.”

At this time, Wright State Athletics has yet to respond to The Wright State Guardian’s request for comment.

Illegal advertising

While big betting companies, such as DraftKings, MGM and Caesars, have run successfully in other states, those companies have violated the OCCC’s rules with recent advertisements.

DraftKings has been the most problematic of the three. The OCCC has cited DraftKings not only for the content of its advertisements being misleading but also for sending advertisements to college students.

According to Franks, DraftKings allegedly sent up to 2,500 mailed advertisements to users under 21 and could face a $350,000 fine for that violation, not counting its other offenses for the content of those advertisements.

“In Ohio, you cannot advertise sports gaming on a college campus,” Franks said. “We did have a couple of instances, and we did issue a notice to DraftKings for mailing advertisements to those under 21.”

Caesars and MGM have also had hearings related to the content of its advertisements, as the material did not include a responsible gaming message and misleading advertisements, including “free bets” or “risk-free bets.”

As sports betting continues to develop in Ohio, the OCCC will continue to change its rules and regulations to keep companies honest. For harassment of players and coaches, the OCCC is also working on regulating threats.

“We cannot control people’s behavior, but the commission does have some tools at our disposal to control their access to sports gaming,” Franks said. “There’s a difference between criticizing a player’s play and making direct threats against them.”

The commission can place individuals on a “voluntary exclusion list,” which would bar these individuals from participating in sports gambling in Ohio.

If you or someone you know has questions or problems with gambling, call the Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700 or visit the gambling responsibility website.

Noah Kindig

Sports Reporter

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