AGA urges Maine regulators to u-turn on sports betting advertising restrictions

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The American Gaming Association has called upon Maine regulators to roll back on plans to place severe restrictions on sports betting advertising. 

Writing a letter to the Maine Gambling Control Unit, Bill Miller, CEO of the AGA, has pleaded to the body to remove all restrictions on sports betting advertising, citing the threats of illegal sportsbooks. 

Miller explained that limiting what legal sportsbooks can do via advertising can negatively impact players in the long run, as they may end up inadvertently finding offshore black market operators instead of legal, regulated ones. 

He wrote: “The AGA urges the Maine Gambling Control Unit to remove the restrictions on advertising contained in the proposed regulations, which – if adopted – will undermine a critical tool that the legal industry uses to inform the public about licensed operators, further empower illegal sportsbooks, and limit the success of the legal market in Maine.  

“As Maine has recognized, legal sports betting enhances consumer protections and helps promote transparency and game integrity, while also supporting job growth and generating tax revenue. However, to realize these benefits, it is important to avoid policy decisions that – even if well-intended – will ultimately undermine the ability of the regulated marketplace to compete against illegal sportsbook operators.”

In their current guise, Maine’s sports betting advertising regulations stipulate that TV ads may only be played during events on the channel that the game is broadcast on, whilst no offers or bonuses are allowed to be promoted. 

However, the AGA has warned that such limitations will be an opportunity for bad actors, and that advertising legal sportsbooks is a key way to distinguish the regulated from the offshores. 

“Legal sportsbook advertising has an essential role in drawing bettors away from the predatory illegal market to the protections of the legal, regulated market,” Miller added. “Particularly in new markets, advertising helps to inform the public about which sportsbooks are legal, as well as to ensure customers receive responsible gaming messages. 

“Placing broad and overly burdensome restrictions on legal sportsbook advertising will only exacerbate the competitive advantages enjoyed by illegal operators and hamper efforts to effectively draw customers into the regulated market.” 

A key argument that the AGA laid out to Maine’s regulators is that responsible gambling messaging is a large part of legalized sports betting advertising. 

Citing the AGA’s Have a Game Plan. Bet Responsibly campaign, Miller noted that its members ‘set a high standard’ on RG and that their efforts ‘are making a difference’. 

On RG messaging, the Maine regulations set out that adverts must use the following statement “Persons under 21 years of age may not participate in sports wagering” as well the 1-800 GAMBLER hotline phone number for assistance.

He wrote: “From the start, our industry’s top priority has been getting sports betting right and that includes advertising. The AGA’s Responsible Marketing Code on Sports Wagering sets a high standard for operators by prohibiting targeting underage and vulnerable populations and mandates the inclusion of responsible gambling resources. It also provides a means for any member of the public to file a complaint to ensure compliance with the code.”

Finally, he concluded: “Statutory and regulatory restrictions or bans will only impede the ability to inform consumers about the availability of legal sportsbooks and the tenets of responsible gaming, and strengthen the competitive advantage enjoyed by illegal betting operations.” 

Sports betting advertising has been in the headlines throughout the beginning of this year following the slew of New York Times expose articles at the back end of last year, whilst the discourse has slipped into the legislative season. 

Several bills seek to limit advertising of sports betting in the US, including a federal bill, the Betting on our Future Act, which would ban sports betting ads from television, radio and online. 

The latest advertising debate occurred this week in Massachusetts, when major affiliates tried to change the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s mind on banning both the CPA and Rev Share models from being used in the state.