According to its executive director, the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) may examine the prospect of banning Ohio sports gamblers who harass college athletes over gambling losses on social media.
OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler said he would ask the commission to look into adding any Ohio sports bettor to a sports betting exclusion list if they harass college athletes based on the outcome of a sports bet.
“While we cannot control people’s behavior, we (the Commission) can control their access to sports gaming venues,” Schuler told The Ohio Star.
During the OCCC meeting on Wednesday, Schuler made his comments. He first claimed that he had not intended to say anything, but that he had learned of multiple instances in which state bettors had harassed players on the University of Dayton‘s men’s basketball team.
Schuler told The Star, the commission has the power to add anyone to an exclusion list for sports betting. He stated that anyone who makes such comments against college athletes on social media should be barred from legal sports betting in Ohio if the commission can identify them.
“I think that it’s incumbent upon the commission to look into that very power, that if social media is able to help us determine who these individuals are who are speaking out hate to kids, then the commission has a responsibility to ensure that certainly, those people cannot engage in legal sports gaming in the state of Ohio,” Schuler said.
According to state Representative Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) the OCCC is out of bounds.
“The Ohio Casino Control Commission needs to get an emergency refresher on the First Amendment before publicly musing any more about government punishing private citizens for saying mean things to other private citizens,” Stewart said.
Stewart cited Ohio Revised Code that states “the sports gaming exclusion list may include any person whose presence in a sports gaming facility or whose participation in the play or operation of sports gaming in this state is determined by the commission to pose a threat to the interests of the state, to achieving the intents and purposes of Chapter 3775 of the Revised Code, or to the strict and effective regulation of sports gaming.”
“I voted for sports gaming. I’m also pretty certain no one did so believing that this language could possibly be read as empowering the government to ban people from a legal activity just because they say something the government doesn’t like. If someone is “threatening” players, that’s illegal. Deal with those idiots accordingly. “Hateful messages” are mean but not illegal,” Stewart said.
University of Dayton Vice President and Director of Athletics Neil Sullivan told The Star that the school welcomed any such safeguards.
“The University of Dayton appreciates the commission’s attention to this issue. Anything that protects the best interests of student-athletes across the state is something worth exploring,” Sullivan told The Star.
Schuler learned about the instances after Anthony Grant, head coach of the Dayton Flyers, brought up the subject at a press conference on Tuesday night. After the team’s 63-62 loss over Virginia Commonwealth last week, which came despite a 14-point lead at the halftime, Grant revealed that in the last several weeks both he and players on his team have received hateful messages related to gambling which became legal in Ohio on January 1st.
“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. So I’m just asking all the Flyer fans just to understand that we’re dealing with 18-, 21-, 22-year-olds, and this is about them. This is about them. Alright? So those of us that love the Flyers – which is the vast majority of our fan base – we appreciate you. Alright? But if this is about anything else that doesn’t relate to what’s in the best interest of the kids, what’s in the best interest of this university and this proud program and this community that loves the Flyers,” Grant said.
He continued by discussing how the legalization of sports betting has altered Ohio college athletics.
“There’s some laws that have recently been enacted, that really to me – it could really change the landscape of what college sports is all about. And when we have people that make it about themselves and attack kids because of their own agenda, it sickens me. They have families. They don’t deserve that. Mental health is real. So if you’re a Flyer fan, I ask you just to understand what you’re dealing with, with young people. Alright? Take a step back, and reevaluate your priorities. And if you can’t, we don’t need you. We don’t need you,” Grant said.
Stewart reiterated that while the hateful comments are unfortunate, Grant does not note that any threats of violence have occurred.
“There is nothing in the coach’s comments saying that there were “threats of violence.” If there were, that’s bad, but that’s not what the coach said. Threatening people is a crime, but being mean about their game play is not,” Stewart said.
Director of communications with the OCCC Jessica Franks told The Ohio Star, “the Commission will continue to monitor this issue and will take appropriate action when needed to ensure the integrity of sports gaming.”
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Ohio State Football” by Johntex. CC BY-SA 3.0.