DraftKings, Penn Seek Hearings in Ohio Over Sports Betting Rule Violations

Two gaming operators facing six-figure fines from the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) for violating the state’s sports betting regulations have requested hearings for their cases, an OCCC spokesperson tells Casino.org.

Ohio Casino Control Commission
The Ohio Casino Control Commission holds its monthly meeting in December in Columbus. Two operators that face fines for violating sports betting regulations have requested hearings before the commission imposes six-figure fines against them. (Image: Casino.org)

Penn Sports Interactive, which operates Barstool Sportsbook, and DraftKings have made the requests, OCCC Director of Communications Jessica Franks said on Tuesday.

The hearing process allows a licensed operator to present its case to an appeals judge, who then will present a report to OCCC commissioners regarding their findings. The commissioners will then take action on the report during a scheduled public meeting.

Penn Wants Hearing Over Show Broadcast

Penn’s citation was announced in early December at an OCCC meeting in Columbus. The state’s gaming regulatory body found the company broke responsible gaming guidelines in November when Barstool Sports promoted the sportsbook during a college football show in November held before a University of Toledo game. The OCCC rules bar operators from promoting sportsbooks on college campuses.

Among the sanctions Penn faces is a fine of at least $250,000.

The decision to request a hearing on the matter seemingly runs counter to comments Penn Entertainment CEO Jay Snowden made to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) last month when asked about the Ohio issue.

Snowden told the MGC the company went forward with the show believing it was allowed. He added that the messaging during the show was geared toward people watching the broadcast online, which he said represented 90% of the audience.

You might say that’s a distinction without a difference,” he said. “I would say it is an important factor, but nonetheless, we made a mistake. I can assure you that won’t happen again, and we’ll own up to if we do. When we know about these things, when we make these mistakes on our own, we self-report. I think in this case, we didn’t realize we made some mistakes, which is why it was brought to our attention, and we’ll pay the fine, and we’ll move on.”

A Penn spokesperson declined to comment on Tuesday, citing the company is in a quiet period ahead of its quarterly earnings report.

DraftKings Cited Twice

DraftKings has been cited twice. In the lead-up to the Jan. 1 launch date, regulators found the Boston-based company mailed more than 2,000 promotional pieces to individuals under 21 years of age, the minimum age to bet legally in Ohio. Penalties for that violation include a fine of at least $350,000.

Then, just days after the launch, DraftKings was one of three operators found to violate responsible gaming standards. According to the notice sent to DraftKings, the OCCC found advertisements on social media that promoted “free bets” that actually required the customer to spend their money first. The ads also violated Ohio standards by not having responsible gaming language and a problem gambling helpline in a type size so small it was illegible.

DraftKings faces a fine of at least $150,000 for those infractions.

In the latter incident, the OCCC also announced similar violations by BetMGM and Caesars. Caesars admitted the error, blaming an affiliate for running unchecked advertisements. The Las Vegas-based company agreed to pay the $150,000 fine during the commission’s monthly meeting earlier this month in Columbus.

BetMGM’s 30-day window to request a hearing is still open, Franks said. It also faces a fine of at least $150,000.

DraftKings and Penn aren’t the only companies that have requested hearings over pending OCCC action. PlayUp seeks a hearing after it was informed the commission would deny the sports betting operator a license after commission staff determined that the company conducted illegal gaming in the state.

Dates for those hearings have not been announced.

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