Ohio Sports Betting Laws Could Undergo Serious Changes in Near Future

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Ohio Sports Betting Laws Could Undergo Serious Changes in Near Future

Changes may be on the horizon for Ohio sports betting

Some time ago, the Ohio Casino Control Commission proposed amendments to what types of online betting bonuses and promotions gambling operators could offer users. Recently, they made further additions and tweaks to that proposal. And if they hold up, the landscape of sports betting in Ohio could look dramatically different.

What are these changes? How will they impact sports gambling in The Buckeye State? When might they be implemented? And what prompted the Ohio Casino Control Commission to propose them? 

Let’s get into it all—and more.

Ohio Sports Betting Promotions and Bonuses Could Soon Face New Restrictions

Reporting for PlayOhio, C.J. Pierre broken down what changes might be made to Ohio sports betting bonuses:

The Ohio Casino Control Commission may be cracking down on what kind of bonuses sportsbooks can offer Ohio bettors. Earlier this month, the OCCC proposed amendments to the state’s existing regulations, which would further restrict sportsbook promotions…The first proposal ensures operators don’t target underage or problem gamblers with Ohio sportsbook promos. The rule states that bettors can’t obtain bonuses through non-gaming, consumer transactions. Furthermore, regulators prohibit sportsbooks from offering these promos to known problem gamblers or other vulnerable individuals. “Operators can’t offer bonuses to anyone enrolled in the Ohio Voluntary Exclusion Program. Secondly, the proposed addition offers some protections to the operators looking to offer promos and bonuses. The new rules will not prevent a sports betting operator from participating in a consumer loyalty program. This means that each company can offer and promote its rewards programs.”

Anyone who has tracked how the Ohio Casino Control Commission regulates sports betting will not be surprised by the first of these proposals. The Buckeye State has been at the forefront of consumer protection in the legal gambling sector. They have doled out multiple fines to sportsbooks who are in violation of their rules, even if the offenses are accidental. Ohio has also been among the most aggressive states when it comes to investigating sports betting scandals. And that includes issues pertaining to everyone from the bettors and operators themselves to participating athletes as well as team and league employees.

What Prompted These Proposed Changes to Sports Betting in Ohio?

Interest in limiting the types of Ohio sports betting promotions being offered surfaced back in May 2023. That’s when Fanatics Sportsbook in Ohio peddled a bonus that “gave customers a bet credit equivalent to what they spent in the Fanatics Store.” So, if a customer purchased $100 worth of sports memorabilia in a Fanatics store, they would receive a $100 credit in their Fanatics sportsbooks account.

Officials took exception to this Ohio online sports betting bonus for two primary reasons. First and foremost, they worried that it enabled underage gambling, even if indirectly. 

There is no age limit on who can shop at Fanatics Stores. Theoretically, then, an underage customer could claim the credit by creating an account under someone else’s name or birthdate.

On top of that, Ohio and many other states have expressed concern over a lack of distinction between parent companies and branded sportsbooks

For example, when Penn Entertainment launched ESPN Bet, officials in certain states (including The Buckeye State) pressed the company about how they would distinguish the ESPN-branded betting app from the sports media company itself. This led to a delay in ESPN bet launching inside states such as Massachusetts.

This no longer active Fanatics Sportsbook bonus followed the same formula. They were leveraging their most well-known brand (Fanatics memorabilia) against their sports betting app. Unlike ESPN Bet, though, their mode of operations was too intertwined. Not only did it spur an investigation from the Ohio Casino Control Commission, but it led to this.

Online Sportsbooks in Ohio May Still Benefit from Proposed Changes

At first glance, this policy seems like a potential revenue–loser for Ohio online sportsbooks. For the most part, however, it’s a net neutral move. Most online sportsbooks operating in Ohio don’t have various brands they will leverage in service of one another. These new regulations would impact only a select few. 

Beyond that, the second proposed change actually benefits sportsbooks in Ohio. 

Permitting the creation of loyalty programs is akin to broadening Ohio sports betting bonus options. And that’s pretty out of character for the state. 

Ohio is among the places that have been most resistant to letting online sportsbooks in the United States create additional loyalty and bonus programs. The Ohio Casino Control Commission has not wanted operators claiming too many tax exemptions on the back of these offerings. So, allowing the creation of loyalty programs represents a meaningful shift in policy. It affords sportsbooks another means of appealing to new customers and increasing their tax-exempt transactions.

Of course, all of these changes must be approved. They aren’t at that stage yet. The Ohio Casino Control Commission gave concerned officials, citizens and impacted stakeholders until November 30 to submit issues and arguments opposing the new policies. Now that we’re in December, they must review those submissions before making any final decisions. 

If we had to guess, though, these changes to Ohio sports betting are most likely going to be approved. Their implementation isn’t so much a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

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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