The senior U.S. senator from Connecticut, who is arguably Congress’ leading critic of the gaming industry, has said new self-regulatory restrictions adopted by the American Gaming Association (AGA) do not go far enough to rein in sports-betting advertising.
In a statement issued on Tuesday (March 28), Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal praised the AGA for updating its Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering, describing it as “a serious effort to protect young people from gambling addiction.”
But that was the end of Blumenthal’s pleasantries.
“Unfortunately, the benefits of this new code are limited given that not all sports-betting companies — in fact, many of the largest ones — aren’t members of the AGA and don’t abide by their standards,” Blumenthal said, without acknowledgement that FanDuel, DraftKings and the co-owners of BetMGM are all AGA members and account for approaching 90 percent of the U.S. market by revenue.
Blumenthal singled out Caesars Entertainment, a former AGA member, saying the company’s “irresponsible — and on occasion, potentially illegal — marketing to college students through their schools remains entirely unacceptable.”
Caesars’ press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday, but a source close to the company denied Blumenthal’s allegation and said Caesars does not accept sports wagers from anyone younger than 21.
This is not the first time Blumenthal has gone after Caesars. In November, the senator wrote a letter urging the company to end “any existing partnerships with schools.”
The senator also wrote the AGA in November, asking the lobbying shop to enforce its gambling advertising standards.
Blumenthal released his statement about the AGA’s updated advertising code one day after he sent a letter on March 27 to some 60 colleges and universities, asking for information about any marketing partnerships they have reached with sports-betting companies.
The following day, on Tuesday (March 28), AGA president and CEO Bill Miller announced the new self-regulatory restrictions on sports-betting advertising that now include prohibiting any college partnerships that promote, market or advertise sports wagering activity.
Casey Clark, the AGA’s senior vice president, said Miller’s statement was not a response to Blumenthal’s letter to colleges and universities.
“Since we built this [advertising code] in 2019, we’ve always known it was going to need to evolve as the legal [sports-betting] market matured and [the updates are] a reflection of that evolution,” Clark told VIXIO GamblingCompliance on Friday.
“We work in close collaboration with our membership, and [the updates] have been coming together for a couple of months,” Clark said.
Among other things, the updates, which became effective immediately on Thursday, prohibit sports-betting companies from reaching so-called name, image, likeness (NIL) deals for amateur and college athletes.
The updates also require a minimum age of 21 for anyone featured in advertising.
The term “risk free” is also prohibited by the updates in the code, and Miller’s statement said the code will be formally reviewed annually.
In a March 24 interview on CBS during the March Madness men’s basketball tournament, Charlie Baker, the new president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, said he wants to increase the transparency of NIL contracts “so that families actually know what they’re getting into.”
“We’re going to talk some with the folks in Washington about this. There’s a fair amount of appetite to try to deal with this. They’ve (Congress) been hearing from a lot of the same people I’ve been hearing from,” said Baker, who is a former Republican governor of Massachusetts.
The notion of Congress becoming involved in anything related to the gambling industry is usually a red flag for the AGA, which prefers regulation at the state level.
But Clark said he is not worried about the potential for congressional hearings on NIL involving discussions around sports betting.
“The new code provisions prohibit NIL deals between sports-betting companies and college athletes, so if that’s where [former Republican] Governor Baker’s going, then we have alignment,” Clark said.