NBA puts its foot down on “risk-free” in advertising

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The list of groups who believe the times of “risk-free bet” advertisements got longer this week. The NBA is officially banning “risk-free” from any league-controlled media, including advertisements on individual team websites. The league will also put pressure on broadcasters to follow suit

Sports Business Journal reported the change on Friday. While it was announced now, the league does not expect full compliance before the start of next season.

“We believe it’s a problematic term from a responsible gaming and a problem gaming standpoint,” NBA representative Scott Kaufman-Ross told the publication. “It’s important that we be clear with our fans that sports betting carries inherent risk. The notion that anything in this area is risk-free runs counter to the key messaging and education around sports betting. We just feel it’s the right move for us.”

The move comes after several major operators announced they would no longer be using the phrase. Ohio rolled out a sportsbook launch where terms like “risk-free” and “free bet” were not allowed and has been strictly enforcing that, with almost $1 million in advertising-related fines so far. Massachusetts plans to follow suit both in its recent retail launch and when operators go online next month.

Both ESPN and Turner Broadcasting station TNT regularly air NBA games. The NBA on TNT has an extensive deal with FanDuel Sportsbook. FanDuel regularly promotes a Same Game Parlay deal in tandem with the NBA on TNT Tuesday and Thursday broadcasts urging customers to place SGPs on the game.

According to ESPN’s advertising standards, a rule about “free” already exists regarding sportsbooks but has no rule specific to “risk-free”, which is used in a slightly different way in most ads. Here is what the rules stipulate about creative:

“Advertising should disclose material terms for special promotions, and deposit bonuses should not be described as
“free” if conditioned on payment”

Ads must also be geofenced to legal markets and follow the rules and regulations of those markets. All ads must receive approval from ESPN before airing as well.