Are Restrictions on Ohio Sports Betting Advertisements About to Become the New Norm in the USA?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 15, 2024 08:00 PM
Are Restrictions on Ohio Sports Betting Advertisements About to Become the New Norm in the USA?

It seems Ohio sports betting officials may have started a trend.

The Buckeye State remains at the forefront of those concerned with the frequency and scale of sports gambling advertisements. It is something the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) has discussed on numerous occasions. It’s also a focus that aligns with how officials have regulated sports betting in Ohio. Members of the OCCC have spotlighted more overall sports gambling infractions than other states.

This slant is not unique to Ohio, per se. Other states are firmly in the mix. And that’s true now more than ever. Online sports betting in the United States has become ubiquitous. States, of course, enjoy vast revenue streams from its legality. But it has led to a number of downsides. The most notable is an uptick in reports of problem gambling. And as states settle into longer tenures with legal sports betting, they are becoming more concerned with how to limit the adverse impacts of accessible gambling.

This focus is most prominent on two fronts. States like Massachusetts are exploring voluntary self-exclusion programs in which people effectively ban themselves from casino floors, sportsbooks and online sports betting sites across multiple states, if not the entire country. Other states have devoted much of their efforts to looking at—and attempting to limit—the amount of sports betting advertisements. This includes Ohio.

Now, however, it may include the entire country.

The SAFE Bet Act Could Have Massive Impact on Sports Betting in the United States

A United States congress member from New York, Paul Tonko, has proposed a federal bill that would significantly restrict the volume at which sports gambling advertisements are disseminated to potential consumers. Called the SAFE Bet Act, the measure would implement a number of protocols. Chief among them: The elimination of sports betting advertisements during live events.

James Gazzale of Legal Sports Report recently spoke with Tonko about the details of this initiative. Here are the most important takeaways:

“The SAFE Bet Act would ban ‘programming designed to induce gambling with ‘bonus,’ ‘no sweat,’ ‘bonus bets,’ or odds boosts.’ Tonko’s bill would also ban betting ads during live sporting events. ‘We’re not looking to outlaw gambling,’ Tonko said. ‘I think this unrestricted, wild west environment is not helpful to anybody and we think it’s necessary to have some restrictions so there are not these targeted audiences that are preyed upon (by advertising).” The federal legislation would prohibit sportsbooks from accepting more than five deposits from a customer over 24 hours. It would also apply ‘affordability checks’ on customers before they make large bets. Exactly what that bet size will be is still under discussion.”

As Gazzale alludes to at the end, the exact language and dollar amounts within the bill remain under deliberation. But the full details are expected to be finalized soon.

Ohio Sports Betting Regulation May Have Served as the Inspiration for SAFE Bet Act

Although Tonko doesn’t mention Ohio sports betting regulation specifically, his proposal is seen as a more aggressive extension of the Buckeye State’s views on an unrestricted market.

If you’ll recall, the OCCC somewhat recently prohibited online sportsbooks in the United States from including “risk free” or “free bets” in promotional bonuses that require customers to deposit their own funds first. This seems like a small adjustment. But then you really start to reflect on it. Just think of how many deposit bonuses from top online betting sites advertise welcome bonuses as free money when, really, they’re subject to both deposits and rollover requirements.

What’s more, even if you believe Ohio sports betting regulation hasn’t been that aggressive, there’s no denying the ripple effects. States like Maine and Massachusetts have since redoubled their efforts to regulate sports gambling advertisements.

Plus, there’s a chance we never have a SAFE Bet Act without states such as Ohio laying the groundwork for concern and regulation.

Sports Betting in the United States is Both More Popular Than Ever and Approaching a Regulatory Reckoning

Online sports betting in the USA has never been more accessible or popular. More than half of the country now licenses mobile sports betting sites, and 38 states have legalized some form of sports gambling.

However, with this rise in ubiquity comes a reckoning. States are generally more motivated than ever to increase safety measures. At first, legalization was seen as enough. It provided regulation to a market that existed almost entirely offshore. And that logic tracks. It also needs to evolve.

When more states started legalizing sports betting services back in 2018, operations were not nearly as intense. Heck, very few states even pounced on the opportunity right off the bat. Not only is legal sports betting the majority standard now, but the best online sports betting sites are now partnering with pro franchises and universities and setting up physical sportsbooks at arenas and large-scale venues.

Put another way: The climate has changed. It is more aggressive—more in your face. So regulatory practices must change, too.

To that end, it’ll be interesting to see how receptive policymakers are to Tonko’s proposal. For the most part, sports betting regulation is proposed and ratified on a state-by-state basis. Federal bills are more sweeping and, thus, harder to pass. But as the initial domino effect from Ohio sports betting regulation has shown, this is an issue many other states at least seem open to discussing—if not flat-out endorsing.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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