Last week, a conglomerate of sports organizations and media companies dubbed the Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising announced it came up with six principles that should be emphasized in sports betting advertising.
Groundbreaking, I know, just under a month earlier the American Gaming Association updated its advertising guidelines. For those hoping for something original, the collaboration did not reinvent the wheel here, and instead rehash stuff that should have been happening for the last five years.
The announcement is essentially the participation trophy of responsible gambling advertising codes.
Too late for sports betting advertising fixes?
Here we are with another too-little, too-late effort to put something back in the bag. There is a lot of responsibility here being placed on sports gambling operators (rightfully so), but seemingly few if any of these requirements force leagues or their media partners to do anything.
There is no agreement between the organizations that they will stop taking sponsorship dollars from companies that do not abide by the principles, or that the member organizations need to do anything at all.
Remember this when Congress does impose regulations because these are the organizations that have the power to bring about real change to gambling advertising and this was the best that they came up with.
Not much new ground broken
The official press release from the NBA Communications division lists six core principles that the group, which contains Major League Baseball, NFL, WNBA, NHL and NBC Universal, and FOX as well as a number of other entities, agree to “implement:”
- Sports Betting Should be Marketed Only to Adults of Legal Betting Age
- Sports Betting Advertising Should Not Promote Irresponsible or Excessive Gambling or Degrade the Consumer Experience
- Sports Betting Advertisements Should Not Be Misleading
- Sports Betting Advertisements Should Be In Good Taste
- Publishers Should Have Appropriate Internal Reviews of Sports Betting Advertising
- Publishers Should Review Consumer Complaints Pertaining to Sports Betting Advertising
These, of course, are all reasonable, though vague, but this is also neglecting the fact that these guidelines should already be guiding the industry. There is seemingly nothing new here. This pronouncement reads as little more than, “uh-oh we better say something because this gambling thing is starting to look bad and we are really benefiting from it.”
What do sports betting advertising principles mean?
If we look at the brief explanation of the first one, the description effectively explains that advertising should only be directed where “a significant majority of the audience is reasonably expected to be legal betting age,” and it should not appeal to children. While these are no-brainers and the most basic of responsible gaming principles, what we do not see is any restriction here on in-stadium advertising.
Principle two similarly hits up against a baseline responsible gaming guideline about not directing advertising towards individuals who should not be targeted. Additionally, it outlines that advertising should “not degrade the consumer experience.”
This is one of the few principles that the coalition members would appear to directly control, as its members could limit the amount of advertising that consumers get exposed to by restricting in-stadium advertising, or limiting the number of television commercials advertising gambling during a game broadcast. But, in case you thought I undersold the disappointment with these lackluster principles, they do not do either of those things, only a fairly ambiguous statement.
Risk-free is the minimum
Principle three seems to effectively mean, do not call something risk-free, as well as not promoting unrealistic images of success. If this again feels like “yeah, no kidding – you should not be doing that,” it is because it is. In fact, these are bare-minimum standards.
Principle four seems to aspire to have a seat on the Supreme Court of Justice Potter Stewart’s, who famously described constitutionally unprotected obscene material as “I know it when I see it.” It describes the requirement that sports betting advertisements comply with “contemporary standards of good taste.” It also specifies that advertising should not undermine the public perception of the integrity of sporting events.
In addition to being subjective and unenforceable (not that there are any apparent teeth behind these principles to begin with,) it is really just a chef’s kiss on the end that the sports league-crafted principles prohibit any questioning of the integrity of sports.
The concluding two principles apply to those who “publish” sports betting advertising, and require internal reviews and an apparatus for receiving consumer complaints. I know I can be a pessimist but if this is not yet happening in television, radio, and print media, then we have some very big problems.
Insert ‘at least you tried’ cake GIF
Well, at least the leagues are doing something, right? Sure. This seems like a great first step.
No, that is simply not true. The leagues and broadcasters have all the power in the world. They could absolutely do something, but this is not that.
These should already be industry standards. In fact, many of them appear to be.
If you want change, ban in-stadium advertising. Say no commercials for sports betting companies before 9 pm. These are the organizations with the power to bring about change, and what they have done here is not even close to bringing about change.