Sportsbook Advertising

Get the latest on advertising rules for sports gaming in Ohio.

With the Ohio Casino Control Commission’s announcement that sportsbook operations will begin in Ohio on January 1, 2023, the OAB is assembling resources to aid broadcasters when sportsbook operators want to place ads with stations.

Sportsbook Advertising Q&A

While it’s too early yet to nail down all the legal (and practical) details relevant to Ohio-based sportsbook advertising, the OAB’s regulatory counsel at Brooks Pierce has produced the Q&A below to address several legal concepts. This Q&A will be updated as new information becomes available.

Click the questions below to read more.

Q: What is the earliest date sportsbooks can begin legal operations in Ohio?

A: The Ohio Casino Control Commission (“OCCC” or the “Commission”) has established a Universal Start Date of January 1, 2023, for sportsbook operators in the state. This will provide stakeholders, businesses, and even the Commission itself the opportunity to make necessary preparations. Please also note that, although the Universal Start Date is in place, some sportsbook operators may begin offering services after that date.

 

Q: When is the earliest date stations can begin advertising Ohio-based sportsbooks?

A: There is currently no prohibition on the advertising of either Ohio-based sports gaming or out-of-state sports gaming. That means Ohio stations can freely accept ads from sportsbook operators now, if they receive inquiries.

Worth noting: In light of the Universal Start Date for Ohio-based sportsbook operators, stations should take care to only air ads for Ohio-based services that are prospective in nature. For example, an advertisement that states that an Ohio-based sportsbook is “coming soon” is acceptable, whereas one that suggests that consumers can “download our app now” to start placing bets via Ohio-based sportsbooks may be problematic, even for stations. (After all, federal law—including an FCC rule—prohibits the broadcast advertising of illegal lotteries, which means that there is risk associated with ads that purport to advertise Ohio-based sports wagering prior to the Universal Start Date.)

 

Q: Are there any restrictions on the content of sports gaming advertisements aired in the state of Ohio?

A: As of this writing, the OCCC’s sports wagering rules haven’t yet been formally adopted. However, the OCCC has stated that it “expects these industry-standard requirements will be met by all looking to advertise sports gaming in Ohio.” Based on the draft language of the regulations that OCCC has made available, here is a brief overview of the main things that are off limits for sportsbook advertising in Ohio:

  • Depictions of any person under the age of 21, except in live footage or images of athletes in sporting events;
  • Content targeted at persons under the age of 21, individuals with gambling problems, or others who are ineligible to participate in sports gaming;
  • Language or content that obscures any material fact;
  • False, misleading, or deceptive content; and
  • Promotion of irresponsible or excessive participating in sports gaming, including guarantees of personal success tied to sports wagering.

 

Q: What is a station’s liability if an advertisement violates these restrictions?

A: Although it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for glaring examples of the prohibited content listed above, our informal conversations with OCCC staff suggest that stations are not expected to be a part of the regulatory enforcement scheme associated with sports gaming advertising. Moreover, in general, stations should not give advertisers legal advice regarding the content of sportsbook ads that are submitted to the station.

If, however, a station actively participates in helping a sportsbook operator draft the content of an advertisement, the station may open itself up to some liability if the advertisement proves to run afoul of the OCCC’s advertising rules.

 

Q: Are there any Ohio law requirements for ads for Ohio-based sportsbooks? What about for out-of-state sports gaming operators?

A: According to the proposed OCCC regulations, ALL sports gaming advertisements must do the following:

  • Clearly convey the terms and conditions of participation in sports gaming, including cost, any material conditions or limiting factors, and the nature of any promotions;
  • Disclose the identity of the sports gaming operator/service provider; and
  • Clearly and conspicuously include language designed to prevent problem gambling, including information about resources related to problem gambling and the telephone number for the problem gambling helpline.

And, ads for out-of-state sportsbook services must indicate that those services are not available to users located in Ohio. In our experience, as a practical matter, this requirement for out-of-state sportsbook ads is inconsequential because nearly all of the sportsbook spots that we have reviewed from operators in other states have included geographic restrictions as a part of the advertising disclosures.

 

Q: If an ad for an Ohio-based sportsbook doesn’t contain all of the required disclosures, can an Ohio station still air the spot? What is the risk to the station?

A: If the station was not involved in the creation of the advertisement, the regulatory risk for airing an ad that lacks the required disclosures is likely to be low. Again, the OCCC staff informally suggested that it intends to regulate (and, as needed, take enforcement action against) sportsbook operators and not advertising platforms such as broadcasters. In the case of a station helping to draft the problematic advertisement, as noted above, the station may face some liability.

 

Q: Can an Ohio station air sportsbook advertising during a high school sports broadcast?

A: Almost certainly not. The Ohio High School Athletic Association, which governs athletic programs for junior and senior high schools, forbids advertisements for “gambling of any kind,” among other things.

 

Q: Where can I find more information about sportsbook wagering and advertising in the state of Ohio?

A: The OCCC website provides a page of FAQs related to sports betting in the state. In addition, stations are encouraged to call the OAB hotline with questions.

 

Revised by Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP on 8/1/22.

 

This Q&A should in no way be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific set of facts or circumstances.  Consult with personal legal counsel concerning any specific set of facts or circumstances.  The information does not establish an attorney-client relationship between any member and the OAB legal counsel.