It has become almost a mantra among U.S. gaming officials to disparage the New York Times series from last November which criticizes the sports-betting industry, but the Empire State’s top gaming regulator on Monday (March 6) acknowledged the articles' influence on new proposals that would restrict advertising.
“Several of our commissioners were very, very responsive to the New York Times article-series,” Robert Williams, executive director of the New York State Gaming Commission, told a group of about 100 gambling professionals at the fourth annual Gambling Boot Camp at the Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark, New Jersey.
While the articles did not mention any specific concerns about New York, the commission decided last month to propose, among other things, a new regulation prohibiting all marketing by sports-betting operators on college campuses.
Williams and Alex Graham, a marketing manager for Penn Interactive, also mentioned a new federal bill proposed in Congress which would ban sports-betting commercials on television and all other electronic media.
The bill, introduced on February 9 by Democratic Congressman Paul Tonko of New York, still has not attracted a single co-sponsor and is unlikely to ever come up in a committee hearing because Republicans maintain majority control of the House.
Gambling advertising dominated the first day of the two-day Seton Hall Boot Camp and several speakers emphasized the importance of avoiding the fate of the U.S. cigarette industry, which has been prohibited from advertising on radio and television since January 1971.
Williams noted that two state senators in New York are sponsoring legislation to require warnings on gambling advertisements, similar to the health warnings on cigarette packages.
The legislation aims to prevent gambling advertising similar to the Joe Camel cigarette ads targeting minors in the 1990s, Williams said.
Santiago Asensi, a managing partner and founder of the Spanish law firm Asensi Abogados, said studies in Spain have shown problem gamblers make up 0.3 percent of the population, compared to 6 percent with problems related to alcohol.
There should be more research on “why gambling advertising should be restricted instead of just imposing the restrictions per se,” Asensi said.
Online gambling is far more reliant on advertising than land-based casinos which already have established their brands, according to Asensi.
Robert Moncrief, Jr., U.S. legal and regulatory counsel for bet365, said the United States should be considered 50 different countries and each state should regulate gambling advertising in its own way.
“There is nothing inherently wrong with the product we’re offering,” Moncrief said.
“We do have a certain duty of care and there is a certain amount of risk that comes with the product we’re offering, but it’s not inherently flawed.”
Moncrief also said consumers have largely grown “numb” to warnings and disclaimers on products.
David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, urged gambling operators and regulators to work together to adopt best practices on advertising to avoid having to impose restrictions.
Dan Hartman, who will soon be retiring as director of the Colorado Division of Gaming, said gambling advertising in his state has “leveled out.”
“It’s not about player acquisition so much anymore; it’s about player retention,” Hartman said.