Despite pressure to soften Maine sports betting advertising rules, the state’s chief regulator is unwilling to budge.
Maine Gaming Control Unit Executive Director Milton Champion told LSR late last week he will not overhaul the stringent proposed advertising restrictions for ME sports betting. He also does not plan to change any proposed rules significantly following the first round of public comments, which ended last week.
Champion aims to keep advertising low in Maine. Under the proposed rules, operators cannot use celebrities in TV advertisements and the MGCU also must approve every TV commercial before they move.
They also cannot deduct promotional and bonus play.
“If you’re not getting credit for promotional or bonus play, why do you need to advertise?” Champion said. “If you think you’re coming to Maine with 1.3 million population and making as much as in Pennsylvania, you need to stop smoking the stuff.
“We didn’t say you can’t do it; you just can’t do it on TV. I don’t want to see the Kevin Harts of the world on TV. Kevin Hart is associated with the movie ‘Jumanji,’ what kid doesn’t love that story and here he is telling them here’s your $200.”
Champion not rattled by AGA letter
Based on early reactions to Maine’s proposed advertising rules, the American Gaming Association last month sent a letter to Champion. The AGA asked the Maine regulator to revise the proposed regulations.
“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,” the AGA wrote. “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.”
Champion said he took several of the measures from the AGA’s recommendations. While he respects the AGA’s thoughts, he believes he is ahead of the curve as advertising garners more scrutiny across the US.
“I appreciate their comments. The AGA is a good association,” Champion said, declining to expand on thoughts about the organization’s letter.
Sports betting ads crackdown
Champion’s position might be among the strictest in US sports betting, but he is not alone in believing advertising has gone too far.
Regulators in Ohio and Massachusetts banned marketing bets with “risk-free” wording. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Maryland and New York are considering a ban on sportsbook partnerships with colleges. New York regulators also recently discussed stricter advertising rules.
US Rep. Paul Tonko recently proposed banning sports betting ads on FCC-monitored media, including TV, radio and internet.
Changing timeline in Maine
When sports betting law passed in Maine, Champion told LSR he expected a launch would potentially take until 2024.
When he released the proposed rules in January, he predicted that sports betting could run by this summer.
After receiving more than 500 replies during the public comment period, he now believes it could take until at least January 2024.