In a notice of violation issued Wednesday, the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) alleged that PENN Entertainment and its Barstool Ohio Sportsbook had violated state law by targeting college students in advertising.
The commission stated that the Barstool College Football Show visited the University of Toledo’s campus on Nov. 15 and promoted pre-registration for Barstool Sportsbook, which is expected to launch when legal wagering in Ohio goes live widely in the state on Jan. 1.
Aside from Barstool, numerous bookmarkers are expected to launch, like FanDuel Ohio and DraftKings Ohio Sportsbook.
More About Penn’s Violation
The Barstool College Football Show event in Toledo had an energized, live audience and was made even more special by Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz’s special guest appearance. He presented Dan Katz with a key to the City of Toledo, prompting some lighthearted ribbing between Katz and University of Michigan alum Dave Portnoy about their cross-state rivalry.
Instead of trading barbs, the conversation turned to PENN Entertainment disclosing details about pre-registration for the Barstool Sportsbook. Unfortunately, this move could lead to PENN Entertainment being fined $250,000 due to Ohio’s law prohibiting sports gambling advertising targeting people under 21. Whether or not PENN Entertainment does have to pay is still unclear until the company appeals the violation at an OCCC hearing shortly.
As per OCCC Executive Director Matthew Schuler’s statement, “Responsible gaming should be the cornerstone of any gaming business.”
“This apparent direct promotion to college students is completely at odds with responsible gaming and the law.”
On the other hand, the PENN spokesperson said:
“We look forward to the opportunity to address this directly with the Ohio Casino Control Commission through its regulatory process.”
The organization does not comment further. The hearing with regulators could result in an increase or reduction of the said penalty.
Other Issues related to Sportsbooks and Colleges
It isn’t only Barstool Sportsbook that has come under fire for its ethical conduct regarding college sports. Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, has expressed his disapproval of the University of Maryland’s partnership with PointsBet, an online sportsbook operator.
The agreement between the university and PointsBet includes activities within the sporting arena as well as on its grounds.
College athletics are big business and many teams formed partnerships with sports betting operators before the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Maryland, Louisiana State University, and Michigan State University all have deals with different sportsbook companies. It is worth noting that Michigan State has a five-year deal worth $8.4 million alone.
This influx of money offers a much-needed revenue stream for struggling athletic departments in need of capital, some of which took huge financial hits due to the pandemic. But it’s important to note the ethical implications such partnerships possess and whether these types of sponsorships have a place in collegiate athletics going forward.
These are just one example of how college-affiliated sports programs have continued to become more loosely profit-based, and it’s raised concern from those involved in gambling addiction policy.