U.S. Sports Leagues, Broadcasters Form Responsible Advertising Coalition

April 20, 2023
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Major U.S. sports leagues and television broadcasters have formed a new coalition aimed at ensuring responsible advertising of sports betting.

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Major U.S. sports leagues and television broadcasters have formed a new coalition aimed at ensuring responsible advertising of sports betting.

The leagues involved in the Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising include the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL).

In addition, Major League Soccer (MLS), the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and NASCAR are part of the coalition.

The coalition also brings major television broadcasters to the table, with NBCUniversal and FOX taking part. The two conglomerates, through their various networks, have television rights agreements with the NFL, MLB, MLS, and NASCAR, among other sports.

“As the legalization of sports betting spreads nationwide, we feel it is critical to establish guardrails around how sports betting should be advertised to consumers across the United States,” the coalition said in a joint statement issued on Wednesday (April 19).

“Each member of the coalition feels a responsibility to ensure sports betting advertising is not only targeted to an appropriate audience, but also that the message is thoughtfully crafted and carefully delivered.”

In its announcement, the new advertising coalition outlined six key principles, many of which overlap with aspects of the American Gaming Association’s Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering and the existing regulatory requirements of most U.S. states with legal sports betting.

Among those principles are ensuring that sports-betting marketing targets only adults of legal betting age, and avoids promoting irresponsible or excessive gambling or “degrading the customer experience,” for example by “appearing excessively.”

In addition, the coalition says ads should not be misleading and should be in good taste, and that publishers should have appropriate internal reviews of sports-betting ads, and that publishers should review customer complaints regarding sports-betting advertising.

The formation of the group comes amid increased national scrutiny on the volume and content of sports-betting advertising, particularly in its exposure to minors.

Regulators in several states including Ohio and Massachusetts have been aggressive in developing rules attempting to limit the exposure to minors of sports-betting advertising, while federal lawmakers have taken some interest as well.

Congressman Paul Tonko of New York introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year that would prohibit all electronic advertising of sports betting, including television and digital advertising, and although that bill is unlikely to merit serious consideration, its mere existence remains a concern for sports-betting advocates.

Although stakeholders have sometimes disagreed as to who bears the major share of responsibility for excessive advertising, whether it be sports-betting operators for simply being too aggressive, broadcasters for accepting too many ads, or leagues for their own tie-ins with sportsbooks after years of fighting against sports betting prior to the 2018 repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, most have agreed that a serious crackdown is a potential threat that should be avoided.

“We’re proud to join these prominent sports industry stakeholders in this important effort,” said David Highhill, general manager of sports betting for the NFL.

“Legalized sports-betting offers fans another way to engage with their favorite sports, but just as we must support problem gambling prevention and resourcing, we must also remain mindful of how sports betting is presented and advertised to consumers, and this coalition should greatly aid in that cause.”

“Forming this coalition with fellow leaders in sports and entertainment is another important step for our industry as legal sports betting continues to grow,” added Kenny Gersh, executive vice president, media and business development for MLB.

“While providing new fan engagement opportunities to enjoy our sport in more ways, we have to continue to be mindful and deliberate with how these sports betting options are presented and to whom they’re directed.

“Layering this coalition's work in the advertising arena on top of our efforts to promote responsible gambling and address problem gambling challenges will lead to more thoughtful planning and implementation across the board.”

Although gaming industry representation is included in the new coalition, Casey Clark, senior vice president of the American Gaming Association (AGA), said the AGA applauded its formation.

“Closely mirroring commitments already made by AGA members through our recently updated Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering, these efforts reflect a shared prioritization of responsible gaming and consumer protection,” Clark said.

“Building a sustainable legal wagering market requires alignment from the entire sports betting ecosystem, and today’s announcement is another important step.”

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