AGA issues scathing response to proposed federal sports betting advertising ban

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The American Gaming Association (AGA) has issued a statement lambasting Rep. Tonko’s proposed Betting on our Future Act. The proposal, modeled on the  Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act seeks to change the law by ‘making it unlawful to advertise a sportsbook on any medium of electronic communication subject to jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission, such as TV, Radio or the internet.’

What did the AGA say?

AGA Senior Vice President Chris Cylke issued the following statement in response to Rep. Tonko:

“The American Gaming Association (AGA) and our members adamantly oppose any legislation that seeks to ban or limit casino gaming advertising, including for legal sports betting.

Any such effort only serves to reduce awareness for legal options to the benefit of illegal, offshore operators and the detriment of consumers and communities. The proposed legislation would violate well-established free speech protections and undermine the expertise of more than 5,000 state and tribal gaming regulators across the country.

Responsibility is a foundation of the legal gaming industry and that includes with advertising. In fact, there’s never been more attention paid or resources invested in responsible gaming and problem gambling resources. This includes our proactive efforts establishing the Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering, which mandates responsible gaming message inclusion and imposes restrictions on target audiences, outlets and content.

Congress should instead focus its attention on combatting the predatory and pervasive offshore illegal market that offers no responsible gaming measures, age verification or problem gambling resources.

We appreciate Representative Tonko’s interest and will continue to work to ensure a sustainable legal marketplace that puts consumer protections first.”

What responsible gaming measures has the US seen so far?

As sports betting continues to be legalized across the United States, responsible gambling has started to be at the forefront of conversation more and more with the AGA and its members. Recently, the bill seeking to legalize online casino gaming in Illinois includes sections dedicated to responsible gaming practices. Similarly, Ohio’s regulators have already issued hefty fines to BetMGM, Caesars and DraftKings for breach of promotional activity guidelines relating to use of banned language in advertisements.

Similarly, states such as Maine and Massachusetts have incorporated harsher measures into legislation than perhaps they would have otherwise given the recent national discussion around problem gambling.

With Superbowl LVII just gone, and record figures likely to emerge, problem gambling and responsible gambling discussions will undoubtedly rumble on. Rep. Tonko’s Betting on our Future Act has been seen as extreme by those within the industry, but it should serve as a timely wake-up reminder to operators hoping to tread the thin line between solid advertising practices and those that could also be viewed as predatory.

There are still several states left to legalize both online sports betting and online gaming, and without responsible gambling measures in place, those that go to public ballot will unlikely receive the majority support they need. The crushing defeat for Prop 26 and 27 relating to California sports betting only go to show that aggressive advertising and throwing money at promotional activity does not always reap the rewards.

With Texas sports betting legalization potentially in the making in 2023, operators will need to be seen to be doing their utmost best to promote responsible, sustainable practice.