Louisiana Responsible Gambling Advertising Bill Defeated In Committee

May 9, 2024
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A heavily amended bill to require sports-betting advertisements in Louisiana to include information on resources for gambling addiction and the potentially addictive nature of online gaming was easily defeated by a House committee, after initially proposing to outright ban ads in the state.
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A heavily amended bill to require sports-betting advertisements in Louisiana to include information on resources for gambling addiction and the potentially addictive nature of online gaming was easily defeated by a House committee, after initially proposing to outright ban ads in the state.

The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice voted 5-1 on Wednesday (May 8) against House Bill 727.

In its original form, HB 727 would have banned any television advertising for sports betting and fantasy sports in Louisiana.

Introduced in early March by Democratic state Representative Shaun Mena, the bill had proposed to prohibit licensees from advertising either fantasy sports or sports betting in the state and warned that any advertising “shall result in revocation of the sports wagering license.”

Mena’s heavily amended version of the bill would have instead required every fantasy sports or sports-betting license holder who advertises their product on television or radio to dedicate 40 percent of their commercial to information on problem gambling resources and the potentially addictive nature of gambling.

When companies advertise in print publications or materials, the same message would have needed to be there in small print below the text of the advertisement. Any advertisement in violation of those requirements would have led to the revocation of the operator's license, according to the three-page amended bill.

If approved, the bill would have become effective on February 10, 2025, one day after the National Football League hosts Super Bowl 59 at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. 

Republican Representative Debbie Villio, who chairs the committee, expressed her opposition to HB 727 but offered the measure to the committee for discussion and a potential vote.

Mena testified that he was motivated to file the measure after watching Louisiana State University Tigers football games on television with his young son and being overwhelmed with advertisements for sports betting.

“I didn’t want to submit this because I was hoping someone else would see this as a problem and I wouldn’t have to,” Mena said. “Let’s be real. I’m a New Orleans Democrat and the Big Game is coming to our city next year. There are a lot of financial implications to this.”

“I didn’t want to do it, but it was the right thing to do,” he added. 

Mena told the committee that he was placed in the legislature to protect his family and that every lawmaker was elected to protect the families of Louisiana.

“So, I truly believe that it is what HB 727 will do,” Mena said. “It is an industry that needs to be regulated.”

Louisiana casino operators Boyd Gaming, Bally’s Corp. and Penn Entertainment all submitted cards to the committee stating their opposition to Mena’s proposal, while Louisiana Casino Association executive director Wade Duty testified in opposition to the measure in person before the committee.

“With respect to Representative Mena’s motivation for this, it is certainly understandable. The desire to protect,” said Duty. “I would ask that you also give equal consideration to the desire to protect the constitutional guarantees, especially the First Amendment.”

Duty’s testimony Wednesday did not address the amended bill but instead focused on Mena’s original proposal to ban all sports betting and fantasy sports advertising.

Mena's initial bill is one of two state-level measures proposing to ban sports-betting advertising submitted during states' 2024 legislation, with another similar bill also filed in the Kansas Senate earlier this year.

In 1996, Duty explained, the state of Rhode Island sought to ban the advertising of retail liquor prices in places where liquor was not sold in the hopes that it would cut alcohol consumption. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 44 Liquormart v Rhode Island that commercial speech was protected speech.

“It does have certain limitations,” Duty said. “States can act to curb some of that speech but cannot issue a blanket ban.”

He stressed that if an advertisement is truthful, it is permissible under the First Amendment.

The unsuccessful effort to ban sports-betting advertising in Louisiana follows a recent study by the American Gaming Association (AGA) that found sports-betting operators reduced spending on advertising by more than 20 percent in 2023.

The study, conducted by Nielsen, also found the volume of advertising dropped for a second year in a row.

Overall, spending on gambling advertising dropped 14 percent from its peak of $2bn in 2022, while spending on sports betting, excluding fantasy sports, declined 21 percent year-over-year from $1.4bn in 2022 to less than $1.2bn last year.

Sports betting’s share of total TV advertising volume was 0.4 percent in 2023, slightly lower than alcohol at 0.5 percent, telecom and wireless services at 1.5 percent and fast food at 3.8 percent. Gambling ad spending was dwarfed by pharmaceuticals at 14.1 percent, according to the study.

For every sports-betting advertisement on TV in 2023, there were more than three telecom/wireless commercials, eight TV spots for fast food, and 31 pharmaceutical commercials, the study found.

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