Major leagues and broadcasters form group to police sports betting ads

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The major leagues have opened their arms to sports betting after initially pushing against it, but a new announcement indicates they are trying to find the happy medium when it comes to gambling and sports.

The major leagues and some major media groups have united together to form the Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising. The voluntary organization consists of the following groups:

  • NFL
  • MLB
  • MLS
  • NBA
  • WNBA
  • NHL
  • NBCUniversal
  • FOX
  • The group stated in a release that they will focus on six principles when it comes to advertising wagering:

        • Sports betting should be marketed only to adults of legal betting age

        • Sports betting advertising should not promote irresponsible or excessive gambling or degrade the consumer experience

        • Sports betting advertisements should not be misleading

        • Sports betting advertisements should be in good taste

        • Publishers should have appropriate internal reviews of sports betting advertising

        • Publishers should review consumer complaints pertaining to sports betting advertising

      “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 association said in a joint statement.

      “We’re proud to join these prominent sports industry stakeholders in this important effort. 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 NFL General Manager for Sports Betting David Highill.

      “FOX and FOX Sports are proud to be charter members of this broad and important coalition. As America’s leader in live sports, we are committed to providing fans a responsible and ethical engagement with sports betting, keeping the integrity of the games and our broadcasts at the forefront at all times,” added FOX Sports Executive Vice President, Head of Strategy and Analytics Mike Mulvihill.

      Many elements of the principles elaborated upon in the statement sync up with the American Gaming Association’s Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering, which were recently updated to prohibit terms like risk-free and expressly condemning sportsbooks partnering with colleges.

      The AGA applauded the move by the leagues.

      “We applaud the responsible advertising commitments announced today by many of America’s biggest players in sports entertainment. Closely mirroring commitments already made by AGA members through our recently updated Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering, these efforts reflect a shared prioritization of responsible gaming and consumer protection. Building a sustainable legal wagering market requires alignment from the entire sports betting ecosystem, and today’s announcement is another important step,” said AGA SVP Casey Clark.

      The coalition does go a step further than the AGA and calls for publishers and not just operators to establish a framework for vetting advertising before rolling it out that includes appropriate training and clearly delineated processes. There should also be a formalized feedback loop for consumer concerns and complaints.

      The formation of the group comes in the wake of growing concern about the frequency of sports betting ads in the US. Rep. Paul Tonko announced a proposed national ban on sports betting advertising in February. The bill has not gone anywhere so far, but other lawmakers like Sen. Neil Blumenthal have voiced their concerns. Major publications like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Newsweek have written articles critical of the industry, which recently spurred AGA President and CEO Bill Miller to pen a response.