As Maine regulators weigh what would be the strictest rules in the country on sports betting ads, the industry’s trade lobby is pleading the case for operators.
In a letter sent Monday, the American Gaming Association asked the Maine Gambling Control Unit to revise its proposed regulations for ME sports betting, which could launch sometime this summer.
Among several restrictions, the rules would prevent operators from marketing any promotional bets and prohibit the use celebrity spokespersons. They would also give the MGCU discretion to approve every TV commercial before it airs. The comment period for the proposed regulations ends March 3.
Sports betting ads face backlash
The AGA has been active fighting against advertising restrictions lately, including in the letter to Maine:
“As Maine has recognized, legal sports betting enhances consumer protections and helps promote transparency and game integrity, while also supporting job growth and generating tax revenue. However, to realize these benefits, it is important to avoid policy decisions that – even if well- intended – will ultimately undermine the ability of the regulated marketplace to compete against illegal sportsbook operators.”
Earlier this month, the group reached out to Rep. Paul Tonko over his proposal to ban sports betting advertisements from all FCC assets. The bill, which would treat sports betting ads like cigarettes, could face pushback from major professional sports leagues, in addition to the gambling lobby.
Lawmakers in Maryland are considering a ban on certain college partnerships with sportsbooks, while New York regulators proposed an outright ban on such partnerships. Both come as Massachusetts and Ohio regulators are putting the finishing touches on their rules, which ban operators from marketing any bets as “risk-free.”
AGA makes its case
The industry’s argument against restrictions centers on advertising as a tool to defeat black-market sportsbooks.
According to a study cited in the AGA letter, more than $63 billion is wagered with offshore sports betting operators annually. In major unregulated markets, 80% of sports betting searches return illegal websites.
It argues that those websites can take advantage of users, as they are under no legal obligation to pay them out.
“Legal sportsbook advertising has an essential role in drawing bettors away from the predatory illegal market to the protections of the legal, regulated market. Particularly in new markets, advertising helps to inform the public about which sportsbooks are legal, as well as to ensure customers receive responsible gaming messages.
“Placing broad and overly burdensome restrictions on legal sportsbook advertising will only exacerbate the competitive advantages enjoyed by illegal operators and hamper efforts to effectively draw customers into the regulated market.”