Bally Bet Fined $5K By Iowa Regulators For Missing Deadline

Written By Adam Hensley on June 26, 2023
Bally Bet was fined $5K by Iowa gaming regulators.

Bally Bet, one of Iowa’s online sportsbooks, was fined $5,000 from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission this month.

The sportsbook supposedly did not comply with one of the commission’s responsible gambling regulations. A member of the commission said there was a deadline and Bally Bet missed it.

Bally Bet recently suspended services in Iowa as it restructures its operations.

Why did Iowa gaming regulators fine Bally Bet?

In Iowa, all licensees – whether they’re a sportsbook, casino, or pari-mutuel company – must download the self-exclusion lists.

PlayIA caught up with Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) Administrator Brian Ohorilko, who broke down the fine and what exactly happened.

“In this particular case, the download occurred 10 days after the seven-day grace period. There was no evidence of anyone gambling that shouldn’t have gambled, or any marketing material being sent out.”

The lists are in place for those looking to voluntarily ban themselves from anything gambling-related. If an individual is on the self-exclusion list, he or she will not be able to sign up or sign into an Iowa online sportsbook account. Additionally, the list excludes them from any promotional mailing.

Iowa law requires operators to download that information every seven days. And in the case of Bally Bet, the sportsbook didn’t meet the commission’s deadline.

How did this violation happen?

It all comes down to Bally Bet’s download procedure, according to Ohorilko.

“It was simple oversight. (Bally Bet) has a manual process. They informed us at the meeting that an individual just failed to perform the download. That does happen. Sometimes when operators have a manual process and an individual leaves on vacation and there’s not a backup plan, we’ll sometimes see this.”

He noted that most operators within Iowa go about this process manually. In turn, there’s more room for error.

Ohorilko said that these issues typically come to light in two ways: the operators self-report the issue or the IRGC’s audits find them.

“In this particular situation, this was something that we caught during a commission audit.”

Manual processes vs. automation

PlayIA asked Ohorilko if a more automated system would be available to operators in the future to help eliminate errors.

“I think that definitely is something that the commission could consider.”

Ohorilko said that Iowa’s self-exclusion database does include capabilities for operators to use API and connect directly to the system so that the downloads occur regularly and on a set schedule. He said most operators do not have the technology in place to do that.

Iowa allows operators to have flexibility with regulations, something not all states offer. For example, operators have until the end of the day each week to download the new list, Ohorilko said.

“We recognize that there are 21 different companies licensed and they all operate very differently, even though they offer the same product. It’s important to have that flexibility because it provides for innovation and different ideas for how to comply with certain regulations. Many times, we’ll find something that works really well and may model that or use it as a best practice. It could turn into a regulation or it could simply be a recommendation.”

At the end of the day, though, it comes down to compliance, he said.

“We really don’t have a preference on how the operators are complying with the rules and regulations – we just expect that they do.”

Bally Bet had no previous incidents of this nature

The relatively low $5,000 penalty was because the error was the first of its kind within the past year for Bally Bet, Ohorilko said.

There was no aggravating circumstances that were a part of this particular incident. This was also the first incident Bally Bet had with respect to this type of violation in the last 365 days.”

The fines for the infraction range from $5,000 to $20,000. A second offense would bring a fine of $10,000, while a third in a year would be $20,000, Ohorilko said.

“I’m happy to say that we have not had a third offense within 365 days for any particular operator.”

He said Iowa sees “anywhere from 10 to 15” violations of the self-exclusion rules each year, but it’s spread out between all of the state’s licensees.

In January, two Iowa casinos were fined for committing the same violation. Horseshoe Council Bluffs Casino earned a fine in March.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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