U.S. Gaming Industry Leaders Concerned About Prevalence Of Advertising

November 3, 2021
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The proliferation of sports-betting advertising in the U.S. remains a key area of concern for industry leaders, with both the volume of ads and prevalence of bonus offerings facing scrutiny.

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The proliferation of sports-betting advertising in the U.S. remains a key area of concern for industry leaders, with both the volume of ads and prevalence of bonus offerings facing scrutiny.

Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA), has said that advertising and promotional play on sports betting will be a key topic at the association's board of directors meeting this month.

The AGA introduced its Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering in 2019, which governs the content of marketing but not the number of advertisements or the marketing spend of its members.

“We’re concerned about it like everyone,” Miller told VIXIO GamblingCompliance following his keynote speech last week at East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City.

“We do want to make sure we are the ones driving this economic segment and not politicians or regulators.”

Miller cited conversations with regulators indicating that the U.S. industry’s self-regulation measures compared favorably with those of other jurisdictions that have seen a pushback against gambling ads, such as the UK, Italy and Spain.

However, he added that the AGA responsible marketing code “needs to continue to adapt based around current circumstances and I think advertising quantity and promotions are issues to be discussed.”

Miller was not the only senior industry figure to address the hot-button issue of advertising at the conference in Atlantic City.

“The reality is, you’ve got states that are effectively shooting a starting gun, and nobody knows where the customers are other than within their own database, so it’s not surprising to me that there’s all sorts of spray advertising to see what you find,” Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg told conference attendees.

Caesars is the latest big entrant into the U.S. sports-betting marketing derby, announcing its plan to invest more than a billion dollars into its digital business by 2023 to propel the launch of its new Caesars Sportsbook platform.

Ads for the Caesars sports-betting platform are now as visible as those of market-leaders FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM, with the company offering an eye-catching $5,000 risk-free bet to new customers in certain markets.

Reeg said that he has concerns about a potential advertising backlash, but also pointed out that Caesars may be well-equipped to handle any future restrictions.

“I’ve got 65m people already in my database, I’ve got 52 properties where I’m interacting with them on a daily basis,” Reeg said.

“I can communicate with my customers without these commercials if that’s where it goes, but I think we’re a long way from that.”

Miller pointed to Nevada as an example of a more mature sports-betting market where advertising is not as pervasive, although part of the reason for that is likely the state’s in-person account registration requirement rather than the remote registration permitted in many high-volume ad markets.

“It’s a mature market and these markets as they mature, or the cost of customer acquisition becomes so prohibitive, they are all going to dial that back,” Miller said. “The question is, what does that look like from a market rationalization perspective and does that happen before or after politicians and regulators?

“We intend to do everything we can to get the industry there before the politicians and regulators,” he added.

Another issue that may need to be monitored as time goes on is the intersection between sportsbooks and content marketing.

Penn National Gaming has been among the leaders in that area through its ownership of Barstool Sports, with executives touting the benefits of having an around-the-clock relationship with players through social media and other betting-focused content via Barstool personalities.

Still, that relationship has also raised some responsible gaming issues, including $17,500 in recent fines from the Indiana Gaming Commission regarding a TikTok post by a Barstool Sports social media intern that was not controlled by Penn.

Chris Rogers, chief strategy officer for Penn, said the company does monitor the content coming from Barstool, and requires responsible gaming training for those responsible for social media.

"We’re not perfect, we’ve made mistakes along the way, but we think the things we’re doing on responsible gaming are continuing to get better and better,” Rogers said. “We’ve had a few pitfalls, where we’ve seen some posting that didn’t adhere to the messaging we want from a responsible gaming standpoint.”

“When that happens, we take down the content, we have a discussion, find out who was responsible for posting it, and then do a refreshing on the training,” he added. “We go through all of our policies and procedures to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

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