Ohio Regulators Propose New Rule To Ban Gambling Promos Used for Non-Gambling Transactions

Written By J.R. Duren on July 6, 2023 - Last Updated on September 20, 2023
Ohio Fanatics Promo Rule

The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) has proposed a new regulation that would ban transactions that got Fanatics in hot water earlier this year.

The rule change would ban any sports betting promos that are a part of transactions unrelated to sports betting.

How the OCCC arrived at its new rule change

The OCCC’s proposed regulation might as well be called the Fanatics clause.

Fanatics, which rose to fame as a go-to marketplace for collegiate and professional sports gear, has a massive customer database.

Looking for an edge against its competitors in Ohio, Fanatics launched a promo in May that offered customers a bet credit in the Fanatics sportsbook equal to their merchandise purchase. So, if a customer bought a Cincinnati Bengals hat for $35, they would get a Fanatics sportsbook bet credit of $35.

While the promo was a smart way to leverage its retail customer base, Fanatics’ strategy did not sit well with the OCCC. It introduced a sports betting angle into transactions unrelated to sports betting.

Shortly after launching the promo, Fanatics pulled it. The company chose not to offer the promo during its Massachusetts sports betting launch, either.

Rule change provides confirmation of OCCC’s view on Fanatics promo

The OCCC didn’t comment on why it disliked the Fanatics promo, according to PlayOhio, but the proposed rule change seems to explain exactly why the OCCC wanted Fanatics to pull its bonus offer.

Regulators do not like the idea of Ohio sportsbook promos leaking into the non-sports-betting universe. Here’s an excerpt of a letter the OCCC sent to sports wagering stakeholders on June 28 explaining the rule change and updates to the OCCC’s FAQ page:

“These promotions are targeted to specific consumers based upon their consumer purchase with an affiliate company. These types of promotions target these consumers with a sports gaming promotion inducement specifically because of their unrelated consumer transaction. These types of promotions include offers made to a consumer following the consumer transaction on the affiliate marketer’s website or application or made following the consumer transaction to the consumer’s email address, by mail, or other direct communication.”

The OCCC letter went on to note that responsible gambling is a “cornerstone” of Ohio sports betting, and that these types of promos would “contribute to the normalization of gambling—providing gambling rewards from simply engaging in non-gaming consumer spending activity” and “threaten the integrity of sports gaming in Ohio.”

Promos are banned on non-gaming transactions, but advertising is not

The OCCC will likely pass its proposed rule to ban promos offered in non-gambling transactions. However, per the commission’s FAQ page, it still allows companies like Fanatics to advertise its sportsbook on its fan gear site.

It’s unclear how often companies like Fanatics will advertise on non-gambling sites, though, as OCCC rules require companies who wish to do so to ensure their ads are reaching customers who are at least 21 years old.

Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP photo
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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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