Gaming Industry Updates Sports Betting Ad Standards Following Pushback from Regulators

The American Gaming Association announced changes to its “Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering,” including a ban on the use of "risk-free" promotion.

Last Updated: Mar 28, 2023 10:48 AM ET Read Time: 3 min
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The gaming industry is taking advertising matters into its own hands following pushback by lawmakers and regulators against some of the promotional tactics used by the operators of sports betting sites.

On Tuesday, the American Gaming Association (AGA) announced updates to the national trade group’s “Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering,” a self-imposed set of standards for promoting legal sports betting

Those changes include banning college partnerships touting wagering activity (unless it is to alumni networks or focused on responsible gaming), a prohibition on sportsbook name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals with amateur and college athletes, and ending the use of the term “risk-free” in advertising.

The times are becoming quite different

The updated code also adds age restrictions for anyone featured in sportsbook advertising, requiring them to be 21 or older, and inserts a commitment to an annual process for the review and potential update of the code. The AGA said the changes go into effect immediately, but there is a grace period for existing advertising until July 1. 

“Established in 2019, AGA’s Responsible Marketing Code reflects the commitment of our members to set and adhere to a high bar for responsible advertising,” AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said in a press release. “Today’s updates advance that commitment and represent our intention to protect consumers and evolve our standards as this nascent market matures.”

The AGA requires members to review and comply with the sports betting marketing code. It also establishes a process through which consumers and others can complain about advertising they believe does not meet the industry’s standards. That process could result in a company changing an ad on its own or at the request of a Code Compliance Review Board.

But the updates to the marketing code come as lawmakers and regulators around the U.S. have been cracking down on the sports-betting industry in the wake of its expansion over the past five years. New rules are being proposed and implemented, including some that the industry is now imposing on itself, such as restrictions on “risk-free” promotion. The latest efforts could be viewed as bookmakers attempting to get out in front of the problem in a voluntary fashion.

However, the industry is also at a crossroads on the corporate side. Investors are pushing for profitability and reduced advertising is a lever that operators can pull to try to improve earnings. 

That said, advertising is necessary to acquire customers, compete with rivals, and alert the public to legal wagering options in newly opened states. This means consumers and policymakers are likely going to keep seeing a fair amount of sportsbook advertising, which could grate on them, even as the AGA said Tuesday that sportsbook advertising was less than half a percentage of total advertising volume in 2022. 

“Advertising plays an essential role in migrating consumers away from predatory illegal sportsbooks and into the protections of the legal, regulated market while providing responsible gaming resources,” Miller added in the press release. “The AGA and our members are committed to building a sustainable marketplace that protects vulnerable populations and gives consumers the knowledge and tools to keep sports betting fun for adults.”

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