Ohio Sports Bettors Who Threaten Athletes Could Face Bans Under New Legislation

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In a pioneering move, Ohio legislators have enacted a provision that could see bans for sports bettors who harass or threaten athletes.

The provision was passed as part of the state’s new 2024-2025 fiscal year budget. It empowers state regulators to permanently ban sports bettors from placing bets within the state who are found to have harassed or intimidated athletes.

This is the first such attempt by lawmakers in the U.S. to legislate against the problem of abusive or threatening sports bettors.

The rule was part of the wider $191 billion state budget, which included a 10% tax rise for Ohio’s sports betting operators. Various gambling bills attached to the budget were hotly debated until the final days of the state’s legislative session.

Just Necessary

The provision was introduced in response to growing concerns about the behavior of some sports bettors.

Ohio has been a focal point for these concerns. Earlier this year, officials from the University of Dayton basketball program spoke out on players being attacked on social media.

Dayton Flyers basketball coach Anthony Grant was particularly incensed at the abuse his team received after one heartbreaking match in January. The Flyers dropped a 14-point home lead against Virginia Commonwealth University Rams and lost 63-62 on January 17.

But what stuck with Grant were the angry reactions from bettors online.

“I have to say something because I think it’s just necessary at this point,” he told Sports Illustrated after the game.

“You know, these young men, we’re asking them to sacrifice quite a bit for us to be able to do what we do and enjoy what we enjoy. And when we have people that make it about themselves and attack kids because of their own agenda, it sickens me.”

The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) has been given the task of implementing the new rules, which aim to address threats against college athletes and all other sporting participants.

Enforcement Challenges

The enforcement of this provision presents a unique set of challenges.

Many individuals who post comments on social media do not publicly disclose their actual identities, and distinguishing between sharp criticism and a threat that warrants an involuntary ban could be difficult.

Many individuals may also be from outside the state or even the country, and so would be unaffected by any ban.

The OCCC has yet to share details on how it plans to monitor and enforce this provision.

In addition to the provision to protect athletes, the budget also calls for a comprehensive study of all aspects of gambling in Ohio.

An 11-member Study Commission on the Future of Gaming in Ohio is to be created, with the aim of reporting findings and recommendations by June 30, 2024. The study will cover all aspects of gambling in the state, including the lottery, casinos, racinos, horse racing, and sports betting.

Meanwhile, the introduction of this latest provision in Ohio could set a precedent for other states with legalized sports betting as they grapple with the challenges of regulating the bad behavior of a minority of angry sports bettors.

However, it remains to be seen how effective the provision will be in the long run.

“We obviously don’t have control over people’s behavior, but we do have control over what venues they can choose to participate,” said Matt Schuler, executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission after the Flyers incident in January.

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