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Penn Entertainment facing $250k fine over Barstool college promo

Penn Entertainment news

Penn Interactive is currently facing some heat due to the company’s approach to underage gambling. The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) conducted its public meeting on Wednesday and revealed that Penn had allegedly violated regulations prohibiting the advertising of gambling to people younger than 21.

The regulator took issue with Barstool Media’s move last month to host its Barstool College Football Show at the University of Toledo. According to the OCCC, the incident violated two separate rules, one of which was promoting gambling on a college campus, and the other was targeting underaged people.

The executive director of the OCCC, Matt Schuler, noted that blatant advertising of sports betting in Ohio to underaged people was at odds with the regulations surrounding responding gaming.

“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,” he said.

A notice released by the regulator referenced the state’s administrative code, which “prohibits sports gaming advertising or promoting on college or university campuses in the state of Ohio unless the advertising is generally available”.

“In that show, Barstool advertised the Barstool Sportsbook by promoting pre-registration… including the offering of bonus cash for the Barstool Sportsbook and ‘mycash’ for Penn Entertainment Casinos related to sportsbook pre-registration,” the notice continued.

The breaches could warrant fines as high as $250,000, one of the largest financial penalties the OCCC can dole out. The regulator will have to conduct a vote on the issue, and if the ruling does not favor Penn Interactive, the company has the option of appealing 30 days from the notice date. If Penn pays the fine, it will go into Ohio’s general fund.

“We look forward to the opportunity to address this directly with the Ohio Casino Control Commission through its regulatory process. Other than that, we do not comment on pending regulatory matters,” a spokesperson for Penn said.

Penn Entertainment is the parent company of Barstool Sportsbook and Penn Interactive. The company operates two Ohio-based casinos and racinos, as well as the Toledo-based Hollywood Casino.

Barstool’s campus show was streamed from the Glassdoor Stadium parking lot on the University of Toledo campus and brought in a relatively large crowd. Mid-program, the sportsbook called for interested Ohio residents to pre-register for the Barstool Sportsbook while a graphic appeared on an overhead scene.

Sports betting is currently not live in the state, and Barstool, along with other operators, will launch on January 1. Several operators in Ohio have already begun offering incentives to customers to join the registration list ahead of the universal start date.

The announcers of the Barstool Sportsbook event neglected to mention that gambling was prohibited for people below 21 years; neither did the promotional image. Including the terms and guidelines of a sportsbook in the footer of marketing material is common practice in the gambling industry.

The OCCC also requested that all staff and representatives of Penn Interactive be educated and trained according to the law of the state in terms of advertising and promotion guidelines.

Prior to the recent incident with the OCCC, a different regulator raised issues concerning live Barstool College Football Show events staged close to college campuses. Amid Penn’s Plainridge Park Casino vetting for a retail sportsbook permit in Massachusetts, the state’s regulators inquired about an incident in Knoxville, TN, that Penn Interactive was involved in.

Chris Soriano, the Head of Compliance in Penn, responded to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, claiming that the Knoxville show was entirely different from the sportsbook.

“I think one of the important things to keep in mind was this was the Barstool College Football Show which was broadcast from there. There was no sportsbook advertising. This was Barstool Media. So this was not a Barstool Sportsbook. This was not the gaming operation. And so it was a more generic college football program rather than specifically targeted for school sportsbook-type promotion,” Soriano explained.

Upon further investigation, a video revealed that the Knoxville stage featured Barstool’s branding. While the event did not have a direct call to action like Ohio’s, its broadcast fused the Barstool Sportsbook brand with the game spread and total odds.

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