The Ohio Casino Control Commission is deciding which gambling companies can earn an Ohio sports betting license. It has to weigh different variables, including hardware, software, finances, the executive team, and legal compliance. One small challenge has been a handful of tweets from one prospective sportsbook company, betJACK. Some of its summer tweets:
- Explicitly linked winning sportsbook bonus credits to feelings of power.
- Implied that bettors should spend the day placing sports wagers during work hours.
- Falsely claimed that it was the only available sportsbook because other sportsbooks didn’t care enough about Ohioans to launch before January 1.
These tweets aren’t the core of betJACK’s marketing. betJACK’s Twitter feed is largely baseball analysis and sports commentary. But these snippets of unethical marketing haven’t disappeared, either. It’s a minor issue, but it’s ongoing.
No chance any work gets done today with all of this baseball to watch.
— betJACK (@betJACK) July 12, 2022
Ohio Sharp reached out to Jack Entertainment for comment. Jack Entertainment did not respond.
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Ohio Sports Betting License Depends on Draft Rules
These tweets appear to violate Ohio’s draft sports betting rules, which prohibit sportsbook ads from encouraging “excessive participation” in sports betting. Ads like these promote beliefs that overlap with common gambling myths. For example, some bettors believe that the longer they gamble, the higher their chances of winning.
The belief that long-term odds favor bettors is false because sportsbooks adjust odds to absorb short-term losses and secure long-term profits. Encouraging bettors to spend inappropriate amounts of time gambling lends credence to this myth and plays a small role in perpetuating that mistaken belief.
This may not be done intentionally, but it’s something that sportsbooks and their regulators must be mindful of.
Ohio Casino Control Commission Statement
In response to Ohio Sharp’s inquiries about the legality of betJACK’s tweets, the Ohio Casino Control Commission sent this statement via email:
“While the Commission is allowing sports gaming advertising, marketing, and user recruitment ahead of the January 1 start date, it emphasizes the importance of prospective applicants following the requirements and prohibitions outlined in ORC 3775.02(B)(10) and proposed Ohio Adm. Code 3775-16-08 and 3775-16-09.
Although these standards will not formally be in place until the Commission’s advertising rule completes the rule-making process, the Commission expects these industry-standard requirements will be met by those looking to advertise sports gaming in Ohio.
Otherwise, the Commission may need to take administrative action or change its stance on allowing these activities ahead of launch. In addition, the Commission will consider an applicant’s adherence to these standards in determining their suitability for licensure.
Even though the draft rules are not official yet, they’re the standard by which the Ohio Casino Control Commission is judging license applicants. The draft rules hold sportsbooks to a higher standard than the current Ohio gambling law. The draft rules add a line prohibiting ads that encourage “excessive participation in sports gaming” or guarantee success of some kind from sports betting.
But there are more serious issues a sportsbook can run into during or after licensing than marketing violations.
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Avoiding Ohio Sports Betting License Issues
Violating marketing guidelines aren’t necessarily reasons to deny a sportsbook applicant a license. Other markets have seen worse violations.
More important violations would be internal control failures to respond to potential money laundering. Action 24/7 got its license suspended in Tennessee when it failed to act on an account that had deposits from 127 credit cards. Failing to verify bettor identities, including ages and self-exclusion status, are other disqualifying failures.
Withdrawal issues are serious problems that should be caught during the application phase, too. Caesar Sportsbook experienced withdrawal issues in New York. Customers were so angry about not being able to withdraw winnings that State Senator Joseph Addabbo made a statement about it. That this occurred in New York, then the largest sports betting market launch, intensified the spotlight on Caesar’s withdrawal problems.
Finally, Colorado’s Division of Gaming failed to perform the minimum due diligence for some of its 29 temporary license holders. The Division built its investigatory processes around what it could accomplish in a few weeks rather than what would ensure a sportsbook was ready for market. So, the Division doesn’t know whether all of its sportsbooks are financially viable, are properly funded, or whether they complied with laws and regulations in other markets.
Clearly, marketing issues are not the worst failures a sportsbook or a state regulator can experience. But ethical marketing guidelines and effective restrictions play a small but important role in problem gambling prevention.
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Sports Betting Ads and Responsible Gambling
Bad marketing does not cause problem gambling. However, sportsbooks can avoid lending credence to beliefs that lead some bettors to engage in problem gambling behaviors by marketing responsibly.
For example, the term risk-free bet is allowed in most American markets. The term risk-free implies that bettors don’t have to risk their own money to earn site credits. In reality, bettors cannot get site credits without betting their own money.
Naive bettors may sign up for sportsbooks and start betting in the hopes of chasing lucrative risk-free welcome bonuses. They may overspend with the expectation that they’ll be able to withdraw site credits like cash. But since site credits can only be used to bet, bettors lose however much money they spent chasing a misleading bonus.
A subtler example is encouraging bettors, even tacitly, to stay up late placing sports wagers. Bettors may assume that by pouring more time into gambling that they’ll have a better chance of coming out ahead. That’s a stubborn and pernicious myth that can lead a bettor to engage in problem gambling behavior.
Eliminating sportsbook ads that implicitly endorse gambling myths eliminates a highly visible source of misinformation. Keeping these ads out of the industry is not a substitute for problem gambling funding, Gamblers Anonymous chapters, or accessible treatment programs. Responsible marketing is one part of a larger safety net that online gambling markets are obligated to build.
Where betJACK’s Tweets Stand
Marketing mistakes that aren’t repeated are probably not grounds to withhold licensing, but minor violations that continue unabated can snowball into major problems. betJACK’s most recent tweet in apparent violation of Ohio’s draft rules is from July 12. It has problematic tweets going back to June 11.
This pattern is far from the worst violation a sportsbook could commit. But if it continues, it could endanger betJACK’s Ohio sports betting license.