Gambling Lobby Engages Rep. Tonko On Bill To Ban Sports Betting Ads

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The American gambling industry’s main trade lobby reached out recently to US Rep. Paul Tonko over his proposal to ban most sports betting ads nationwide, executives said Wednesday.

Tonko’s proposal (H.R. 967), was introduced Feb. 9. It would treat sports betting ads like cigarette ads, and ban them from TV, radio and the internet.

“Our interest is to get in there, see what his concerns are, see what his office’s concerns are, make sure that he understands how we are approaching sports betting and why advertising is so important to move people from the illegal market into the legal market,” Bill Miller, President of the American Gaming Association said the association’s State of the Industry event Wednesday. “We look forward to that dialogue.”

Tonko will ‘work with anyone’

Under Tonko’s proposal, all media under FCC jurisdiction would be banned from running sports betting ads. The bill is pending a first reading in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Tonko’s office confirmed the AGA reached out.

“I will work with anyone to get these predatory and ubiquitous gambling ads off the air,” Tonko said in a statement to LSR. “Wall-to-wall advertising campaigns, celebrity spokespersons, promotional partnerships with colleges, and offering thousands of dollars in ‘free’ bets are all extremely problematic tactics that need to stop before we find ourselves dealing with a full-blown gambling addiction epidemic.

“The status quo is simply not acceptable.”

Sports betting ads bring federal eyes

The AGA has repeatedly called on federal lawmakers to crack down on offshore sportsbooks operating in the US illegally. Advertising, though, is the only matter that has piqued federal sports betting interest as of late.

Miller said he has spoken with Sen. Richard Blumenthal since he responded to the lawmaker’s demands that AGA stop Caesars and PointsBet from advertising to college students.

Blumenthal’s letter called on AGA to tell Caesars to end its partnerships with LSU and Michigan State, and PointsBet to end its partnerships with Colorado and Maryland. In his response, Miller acknowledged advertising sports wagering on college campuses violates AGA’s operator marketing code, but pointed out that neither Caesars or PointsBet are members of AGA.

“My view was we can only answer for ourselves,” Miller said Wednesday. “I wanted to make sure that the senator and his office understood what we have done in advance of creating this new industry and that was put the consumer first and make sure that we do learn from these other markets that didn’t get it right.”

Blumenthal’s office has not responded to multiple LSR requests for comment.