PlayUp Agrees To Gaming Regulator Sanctions In Ohio

Written By Derek Helling on April 21, 2023
online ohio sports betting legal apps

For gaming company PlayUp’s interests in Ohio, the phrase “four more years” has a different meaning. The company will not seek to offer its online Ohio gambling platform for at least that amount of time.

For JACK Cleveland Casino, that means it is decision time regarding its agreement with PlayUp. What path the relationship between the parties might take depends on several factors, including PlayUp’s plans for when the four-year period ends.

Ohio sports betting regulators delve out sanctions

On Wednesday, the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) shared some news regarding a planned hearing regarding PlayUp’s application for a license to offer Ohio online sports betting. The bottom line was that the hearing would not take place.

Internal discussions with PlayUp have resulted in a compromise of sorts on that matter. The OCCC will not render a negative decision on the application at this time. In exchange, PlayUp has voluntarily agreed to a few conditions. Those include:

  • Making restitution to all players who accessed illegal gambling channels through PlayUp
  • Paying a $90,000 fine to the OCCC
  • Refraining from operating its sportsbook in the market for a period of four years

Should PlayUp satisfy those conditions, the OCCC can consider a
new application
as soon as 2027. The settlement comes from what PlayUp characterized as a misunderstanding of the state’s gambling laws.

What led to PlayUp agreeing to pay up

In December 2022, the OCCC announced it intended to deny the license application. It stated the company’s offering of its PlayUp Slots+ product in the state amounted to illegal gambling. According to Rebecca Hancheett of Gaming Today, PlayUp said it was all just a misunderstanding in January.

“PlayUp received the Commission Notice for Opportunity for Hearing and is reviewing its provisions with legal counsel. At all times, PlayUp believed it was operating within the bounds of Ohio law. As noted by the Executive Director, PlayUp acted diligently to come into compliance with the Cease-and-Desist Order. PlayUp remains committed to compliance with all Ohio laws.”

Regardless of any lack of malicious intent, PlayUp has signed on for the aforementioned terms. That means internal discussions between JACK Casino in Cleveland and PlayUp have likely been ongoing regarding their future together.

Could PlayUp still launch in Ohio in 2027 or later?

Ohio law requires online sportsbook operators to partner with a land-based gambling licensee in the state. For PlayUp, that is JACK Casino in Cleveland. Originally, the two parties planned for PlayUp to go live in the state on Jan. 1, 2023, or as near to it as possible.

With the moratorium now in place, JACK faces some decisions. Its position as a gateway of sorts to Ohio sports betting has some value. Maintaining the original terms of the deal would mean forfeiting any revenue from online sports betting for the duration of the moratorium.

At the same time, JACK is getting some of that value from its own BetJACK platform. Most of the prominent sportsbook brands are already in Ohio as well via other relationships. It’s questionable to what extent JACK could realize value from freeing up the contract PlayUp currently occupies given the lack of potentially interested parties who could actually make a difference.

For that reason, PlayUp might still have a willing partner when the four-year inactivity period expires. That’s no guarantee the OCCC will be accommodating at that time, though.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of Playin USA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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