It is time to stop the “aggressive” and “predatory” tactics that US sports betting operators use in advertisements and ban them, US Rep. Paul Tonko said Monday.
“No, I’m serious about the bill,” Tonko said when asked if the filing was an attempt to get the industry to self-regulate. “I think that ever since sports betting became legalized in a widespread fashion, the industry has been operating in, I think, a Wild West, largely unregulated environment. I think you can clearly see this in the wall-to-wall advertising that you catch anytime you’re tuning into a sporting event or scrolling through social media.
“Even worse, I think these advertisements are largely predatory in nature with big gambling companies offering risk-free or no-sweat bets while simultaneously offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in free bets. I think the tactics have one clear purpose and that’s to hook and retain a new generation of consumers.”
Bill bans TV, radio, internet sports betting ads
Under the proposal, any media under the jurisdiction of the FCC could no longer run sports betting ads. That includes TV, radio and the internet.
It is time for the federal government to act since sportsbooks will not do what is right, according to Tonko. The current advertising environment is an “aggressive, maybe even greedy approach,” Tonko said.
“We’re doing a disservice to those struggling with gambling addiction by expecting the sportsbooks to sacrifice their profits for the greater good,” Tonko added. “We just can’t rely on them to do it.”
Not Tonko’s first attempt in the arena
Tonko has sponsored multiple bills concerning addiction and mental health in the past few years:
- Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act of 2022
- COVID–19 Mental Health Research Act
- Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act of 2019 & 2021
- Medicare Mental Health Inpatient Equity Act of 2019 & 2021
- Reducing Barriers to Substance Use Treatment Act
- Substance Use Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services Block Grant Act of 2022
Tonko thinks those communities and more could come together to support the betting ban:
“It’s a serious enough concern, a public health concern,” Tonko said. “Talk to the families that have been impacted by this problem gambling in regards to suicide, divorce, economic consequences, terrific debt.
“… I fully anticipate there’s going to be interest because a number of organizations that deal with mental health, addiction, and suicide prevention have shown an interest. Their reach is far and wide to the legislative community.”
Jamie Foxx the new Joe Camel?
Tonko is especially concerned about how kids and young adults are affected by the ads.
“Instead of Joe Camel, now we’ve replaced that with celebrity spokespeople,” Tonko said. “… When I talk to young people, they will show me on their phone how they’re a targeted audience and it’s filled with tremendous [amounts of] ads.”
Between 60% and 80% of high school students have gambled for money in the past, according to a fact sheet provided by Tonko.