No U.S. Ban Expected From Sports-Betting Advertising Backlash

April 6, 2023
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Despite the aggressive advertising campaigns used by sports-betting operators to gain market share in the U.S., industry experts believe it remains unlikely there will be a full or even partial advertising ban, even with significant backlash from some sports fans and anti-gambling advocates.

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Despite the aggressive advertising campaigns used by sports-betting operators to gain market share in the U.S., industry experts believe it remains unlikely there will be a full or even partial advertising ban, even with significant backlash from some sports fans and anti-gambling advocates.

Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), made it clear on Wednesday (April 5) that his own organization is not calling for an advertising ban.

“These are bans often by anti-gambling folks for their own reasons,” Whyte said. “Often it is politicians responding to a perceived consumer backlash and then, sort of then like in the UK there is this overreaction.”

“Just to be clear,” Whyte reiterated, “the NCPG is not calling for these bans.”

Whyte said the NCPG remains comfortable with the current responsible gambling discussions being held among regulators, operators, affiliates and everyone within the sports-betting ecosystem to try and do it better.

Currently in the UK, gambling ads featuring current professional athletes and reality TV stars are banned, with broadcast adverts for sports betting and online casino games generally restricted to after 9pm at night, with limited exceptions.

In Belgium, a general ban on gambling advertising is due to take effect on July 1, while Australia is mulling further restrictions or a potential outright ban on sports gambling advertisements. Italy imposed a blanket ban on gambling advertising in 2018 and Spain followed suit a few years later.

Regulators in several U.S. states have recently proposed additional restrictions on sports-betting advertising, with the Maine Gambling Control Unit proposing the strictest limits in the country. The regulator has proposed limiting advertising to only during live sporting events, along with banning all television advertising or promotions and bonuses.

On the federal level, New York Democratic Representative Paul Tonko introduced a bill on February 9 that would institute a national ban on all ads for sports betting on any medium overseen and regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), including television, radio and the internet.

That would leave the industry with only a few means to reach consumers, including newspapers or mailers that casinos have used for decades to provide offers and free bets to their players’ club members.

Rhea Loney, chief compliance officer with BetMGM, questioned the effectiveness of these bans, including whether they actually “just drive consumers to the illegal market,” and whether they would actually decrease the amount of problem gambling that is occurring in these jurisdictions.

“I don’t think a Tonko bill is going anywhere but I think you’ll continue to see state regulations, often ill-advised and awkward, that are more prohibition focused than responsible gambling focused,” Whyte said.

Whyte and Loney participated in an hour-long webinar hosted by the International Association of Gaming Advisors (IAGA) on potential marketing restrictions coming to U.S. markets.

The discussion moderated by Justin Stempeck, chief strategy officer at Compliable, included Dustin Gouker, a consultant with affiliate company Catena Media, Casey Clark, senior vice president of the American Gaming Association (AGA), and Amanda Blackford, director of operations and problem gambling services with the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

“I do think a lot of this discussion feeds into an anti-gambling narrative, again not by the NCPG, but there are still 15 percent of Americans that are morally opposed to gambling and they are feeling saturated by ads they don’t like,” Whyte said.

Whyte noted that the NCPG talks with the professional sports leagues in North America and they know there is a portion of their fans that do not want sports-betting advertising during the games.

Gouker, a self-described baseball fan, questioned the need for FanDuel and DraftKings in-game advertisements during Tuesday’s Philadelphia Phillies versus New York Yankees game.

“Even the [Baltimore] Orioles have a relationship SuperBook Sports that says on the scoreboard, ‘Good teams win, Great teams cover,” Gouker said. “Do we need that kind of intrusion of sports betting into our space? I don’t know that we do.”

Gouker said he understood there must be some sort of advertising if the legal betting market is going to work because without advertising, “you might as well ban online gambling.”

Clark reminded attendees that Americans did not start betting on sports when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018.

“We can’t start talking about this as if it is not an activity that has been happening for a very long time,” Clark said. “You are starting to see some [draw down] as the market stabilizes. We actually saw volume content drop over 20 percent in 2022 from 2021.

“We are starting to see some of that come down, whether it is through proactive self-regulation or you are seeing it through leagues and teams who are changing how they want content integrated into their programming. This is a collaborative effort that is going to require everyone here and not on this call to participate and make sure we are getting it right.”

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