COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Online sportsbooks are pulling out all the stops to win fans’ business when sports betting becomes legal in Ohio on Jan. 1 — but are their offers too good to be true?
It’s difficult to scroll through social media without seeing an ad for a major online sportsbook. Often, those ads will offer a certain amount of money in “free bets,” in exchange for signing up on the platform.
Matt Schuler, executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, said the sports betting market is expected to be a competitive one in Ohio, meaning providers are competing hard for Ohioans’ business.
“Our license applicants are likely to want to push the envelope in order to cut through all the clutter, to try to gain patrons and market share,“ Schuler said. “And there is the danger. Because when you make promises, and use wording — for essence — calling something a free bet, but it’s really not free, because it puts an obligation on the patron. But it’s in the fine print, we have a rule against that.”
While an online sportsbook offers a “bet credit” in exchange for a minimum deposit in a new account, or “bonus” credits if a user bets a certain amount of money on the platform, Shuler said the word “free” must mean just that.
“Completely risk free, and not obligate anything on the part of the patron. That’s where our line is, because if you require someone to put up $500 in order to get another 500 in free play, well, it’s not free,” he said.
With the highly-publicized launch of sports betting in Ohio, comes more chances for some people to struggle with gambling addiction. Schuler says the state has allocated more money to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to coincide with these new opportunities to gamble.
Do you believe you or someone you know has a gambling problem? Click here for a list of resources, or call the Ohio Problem Gambling Hotline at 1 (800) 589-9966. Additional resources for problem gambling can be found here.