US Regulators Prepare For New Wave Of Sports Betting Ads With NFL Return

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Sports betting ads continue to be a concern for regulators across the US, especially in states preparing to launch.

During a North American Gaming Regulators Association meeting Wednesday, regulators discussed best practices in US sports betting advertising regulation. The discussion stemmed from Maine Gaming Control Unit executive director Milton Champion asking for help regarding advertising as the state ramps up before launching sports betting in Maine, likely later this year.

“What we’re seeing right now is a lot of sports wagering advertising,” Champion said. “There’s the question of if it’s legal to start before rules are adopted.”

Sports betting advertising hot topic

Sports betting opponents often cite a deluge of advertising in their arguments to legislators and regulators. The ad numbers often peak shortly after a market’s launch as sportsbooks increase marketing spend to acquire new customers. 

As the football season approaches, sports betting marketing, particularly with promo offers, will also increase as NFL betting is the prime season for sportsbooks to acquire customers. Still, sportsbooks might be less aggressive than in previous years as the American Gaming Association rolled out new marketing standards for its members earlier this year.

Likewise, professional sports leagues including the NFL, as well as broadcast partners, unveiled the Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising this spring. Last year, sportsbooks spent $314.6 million on national sports betting commercials, according to iSpot, a firm that measures TV advertising and audiences.

The industry could be trying to limit the attention drawn to national politicians. In February, US Rep. Paul Tonko introduced federal legislation to ban sports betting ads

Maine’s issue with advertising

Champion said Gov. Janet Mills was adamant about limiting sports betting advertising when she signed sports betting into law last year. As sports betting rules are waiting to be approved, Champion said regional ads have crept into Maine.

“We’re not even live yet, and it’s starting,” he said, adding he is particularly perturbed the fine print does not say it is illegal in Maine.

Champion wrote some of the strictest advertising rules in his initial draft of regulations before scaling it back. Ohio Casino Control Commission compliance manager Chelsea Castle said early on this year, there were a lot of advertising issues resulting in multiple fines, but they have tapered off.

Connecticut regulator sympathizes

Fellow New England state Connecticut also had trouble with regional ads in its limited market, according to Connecticut Lottery Gaming regulation officer Greg Martin

“[There’s] a lot of problems with advertising and certain programs they’re putting out,” Martin said. “It is an issue, billboards everywhere. When they come, they come hard and fast.

“If you push back with them, they’ve made changes. The fine print has gotten bigger here in Connecticut when we forced that issue.”

New Jersey sports betting ads guide

There is an available guide for regulators from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, according to Michael Golub, deputy attorney general at the NJ DGE. Golub’s suggestion to Champion was to threaten future regulatory retaliation if operators cannot comply before sports betting is even live. 

In the same vein, Golub referenced a recent fine on Fox Bet for college sports betting violations

“It’s amazing, five years in, and they still can’t comply,” he said.

Kansas regulators batten down hatches on sports betting ads

Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission regional security manager DJ Lopez warned Champion, “If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.” 

Similar to Connecticut’s requests on fine print, Lopez said Kansas regulators asked advertisers to slow down radio disclaimers.