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NFL, NBA, MLB & Others Form Coalition For 'Responsible Sports Betting' Ads

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 5 mins

NFL, NBA, MLB & Others Form Coalition For 'Responsible Sports Betting' Ads

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There are three fixed constants in Massachusetts. 

Dunkin Donuts. 

Terrible service on the MBTA. 

And, since the start of 2023, a tsunami of advertisements across broadcast, digital, social, and every other conceivable platform for the six Massachusetts betting apps approved to operate in the Bay State.

Those non-stop advertisements are not unique to the Bay State, they swamped the Ohio sports betting market, the New York market and every other jurisdiction that has allowed legal betting since the Supreme Court's PASPA ruling in 2018. The ads have also become a staple during baseball, football, basketball, hockey, golf, racing, UFC, and every other sports broadcast one can imagine. 

A proposal for a national ban on sports betting advertising (see: Cigarettes) has been floated by a New York congressman. Regulators in Massachusetts and Ohio have either fined or are in the process of investigating various books for breaching state rules when it comes to advertising and marketing. 

And on Wednesday, the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, NASCAR, the WNBA, NBCUniversal and FOX announced the "Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising." 

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Principles To Guide Sports Betting Advertising

The group set forth six principles that should guide all sports betting advertising.

They are:

  1. Sports Betting Should be Marketed Only to Adults of Legal Betting Age
  2. Sports Betting Advertising Should Not Promote Irresponsible or Excessive Gambling or Degrade the Consumer Experience
  3. Sports Betting Advertisements Should Not Be Misleading
  4. Sports Betting Advertisements Should Be In Good Taste
  5. Publishers Should Have Appropriate Internal Reviews of Sports Betting Advertising
  6. Publishers Should Review Consumer Complaints Pertaining to Sports Betting Advertising

Many of these principles have been pushed by responsible gaming organizations and sought by regulators. 

'It is critical to establish guardrails' 

"As the legalization of sports betting spreads nationwide, we feel it is critical to establish guardrails around how sports betting should be advertised to consumers across the United States. Each member of the coalition feels a responsibility to ensure sports betting advertising is not only targeted to an appropriate audience, but also that the message is thoughtfully crafted and carefully delivered," the group said in a statement. 

All of the leagues in this coalition have licensing agreements with various sportsbooks that allow the books to use their teams' trademarked names and logos on their websites when posting odds. NBCUniversal (PointsBet) and Fox (FOX Bet) also have exclusive betting partnerships. 

"Legalized sports betting offers fans another way to engage with their favorite sports, but just as we must support problem gambling prevention and resourcing, we must also remain mindful of how sports betting is presented and advertised to consumers, and this coalition should greatly aid in that cause," said David Highhill, NFL General Manager, Sports Betting.

DraftKings, which took in more than $257 million in handle during just 21 days of mobile operation in Massachusetts in March, said it is committed to following the American Gaming Association Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering in reaction to the news. 

"We commend the Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising for bringing sports leagues and media entities together to establish similar principles and we look forward to working with the coalition in our shared effort to engage with fans responsibly," said DraftKings' Stephanie Sherman, Chief Marketing Officer. 

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Move Welcomed By Regulators

The guidelines mirror in part a white paper released by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in 2022. Similar regulations are already in effect, in part, in the Bay State and elsewhere. 

"This is an interesting development and consistent with the priorities of the commission," MGC spokesman Thomas Mills told Bookies.com. "The MGC has been focused on responsible advertising, which is evidenced not only by our robust regulations around sports wagering and advertising, but also the public roundtables we held focused on the subject with broadcasters and other stakeholders."

Advertising and marketing regulatory prohibitions already in effect in Massachusetts do the following:: 

  • Ban the use of terms like “risk free” in gambling advertising and promotional activities
  • Prohibit any false or misleading advertising
  • Prohibit sports wagering ads through outlets where 25% of the audience is under the age of 21
  • Prohibit sports wagering advertising to be aimed at individuals or groups of people at a moderate or high risk of gambling addiction, including prohibiting direct advertising such as text messages or unsolicited pop ups to an individual in the self-excluded program
  • Require responsible gaming messaging to be conspicuously displayed on operator platforms and advertisements
  • Restrict advertising on college campuses
  • Require that the operators are responsible for the content and conduct of any and all sports wagering advertising, marketing, and branding done on its behalf or benefit

"The MGC has been a leader in this area, and appreciate that other organizations recognize this as an area of importance. Our regulations and the goals of this coalition are quite similar, which is nice to see," Mills said. 

About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.