One of the prevailing concerns during the rapid expansion of sports betting across the U.S. has been the potential for a high-profile gambling scandal that affects the industry at large, and some stakeholders say some uniform regulation may be the path to minimizing risk.
During a panel at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) winter meeting, a variety of industry stakeholders spoke about the regulatory landscape and how it relates to responsible gaming.
One key area of focus has been advertising regulation, which Louisiana Senator Gary Smith, a Democrat, said was not a top-of-mind issue for lawmakers when enacting new sports-betting legislation.
“One thing as legislators we really focused on has been the mechanics of how we’re allowing our constituents to access gaming and allow the companies to game in Louisiana, but one of the things we didn’t focus on was the advertising side,” Smith said.
The state has since enacted a new law prohibiting universities from entering into marketing partnerships with sports-betting operators, which Alan Miller, an attorney for the Louisiana Senate Judiciary Committee, said was largely borrowed from the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) Responsible Marketing Code.
“The AGA, in their wisdom, did our work for us, so we were able to adopt the AGA rule basically in reverse and put the onus on the universities,” Miller said.
“I would say that restricting a little bit of advertising is not a bad thing and we do it in other products,” said Dan Trolaro, vice president of prevention for EPIC Global Solutions, who cited tobacco as an example where advertising is limited despite First Amendment concerns.
“Why don't we think of gambling the same way we think of other products where we do have some built-in restrictions whether it’s frequency, percent of space that can be taken up, timing,” he added. "It's not a bad thing to have a conversation around.”
The panel also spoke about other issues surrounding responsible gaming, including possible market manipulation as sportsbooks also act as content providers.
“It is inevitable that there will be a major sports-betting scandal,” said Howard Glaser, global head of government affairs for Light & Wonder.
“Whether it’s market manipulation or insider trading, we’re starting to see the heads pick up off the ground, so something will happen there, because there is an enormous amount of money at stake, mind-boggling, eye-popping amount of money at stake, and there are really no rules. There are guidelines, there are suggestions, but there’s really not a lot of rules," Glaser said.
Glaser said that the industry can either continue to promote voluntary self-regulatory standards and push back against attempts to legislate advertising regulation, which he added is “probably winnable for a certain point of time,” or it can begin to develop model regulation that states can potentially adopt with some uniformity.
“You’d rather do it and be a partner than have it thrust upon you,” Glaser said. “We’re not there yet, because I believe the industry thinks they can defeat any kind of regulation or legislation in particular on this in the statehouses.”
“As a legislator, I always tell the two groups that are having a conflict, it’s much better if you go sit down and come up with a solution than you have me come up with a solution,” added Smith, the Louisiana lawmaker.
“Because you’ll come up with a solution you’d rather live with a lot more than what I’ll come up with for you all.”
Chris Adams, CEO of SharpRank, which monitors the relationship between sportsbooks and content, also called for uniform standards.
“There are a lot of people doing a lot of really good things in this industry, and there are a lot of very positive impacts that can come out of this industry,” Adams said.
“The problem without a uniform set of standards is there's no way to identify the people who aren't holding up their end of the bargain, and that's hugely problematic.
“From an engagement standpoint, from a consumer base standpoint, if the consumer feels rightly or wrongly, that this is a rigged system, they will stop showing up and they will stop showing up permanently,” he warned.