Online study in MA finds gambling ads have little impact on behavior

Massachusetts Sports Betting Advertising SEIGMA
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The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is taking into consideration a report detailing the impact of advertising on gambling behavior within the Bay State.

Dr. Rachel Volberg presented to the MGC a report funded by SEIGMA at the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The report uses a literature review and online panel data to provide an overview of the impact advertising has on the gambling behavior of Massachusetts residents.

“There’s been relatively little research done on advertising and gambling behavior but what we found more generally is that advertising does have a substantial impact on attitudes and consumption of addictive products,” Volberg told the MGC during an open meeting.

SEIGMA and Volberg used online panels from 2014, 2022, and 2023 as primary data.

Big spending on advertisements

Sports betting advertising has exploded post-PASPA behind various forms of online marketing, including paid placements, influencer marketing, and shareable social media.

According to SEIGMA, gambling operators and brands spent $314.6 million on TV sports betting advertising in 2022 compared to $21.4 million in 2019. Online sports betting advertising also grew to $1.9 billion in spending last year, up from $1.1 billion in 2021.

Operators and gambling brands nationwide adhere to certain standards regarding advertising with requirements to feature toll-free problem gambling helplines and not target underage audiences. Despite these requirements by regulators, there are few restrictions on the volume and actual placement of sports betting advertising.

The lack of oversight has seen guidelines proposed by the American Gaming Association and the Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising.

Sports betting participation

SEIGMA’s report found that in 2023 roughly 75% of all online panel participants had played the lottery within the past year leading all gambling categories in Massachusetts. The results were stagnant compared to the year prior but sports betting participation grew.

Massachusetts officially became a regulated online and retail sports betting market in 2023 when former Gov. Charlie Baker signed the state’s sports betting measure into law.

In 2022, approximately 25% of online panel participants bet on sports within the past year. The online results for participants who placed a sports wager in 2023 grew to roughly 35%.

SEIGMA’s report notes the use of illegal sportsbooks in Massachusetts with the use of the platforms in 2022 reaching 4% of online respondents. That figure grew to 18% in 2023.

Noticeable but little impact

The influx of sports betting advertising has been noticeable for Massachusetts residents.

Last year’s online panel found that 58.7% of respondents believe there has been a lot or a fair amount of sports betting advertising. The marketing has been considered frequent by over half of the participants but 77.8% of them believe it has no impact on their gambling behavior with 15.1% of that group believing the advertising caused them to gamble less.

Online respondents did provide insight into what has caused them to gamble more with promotional advertising making up 64.3% of answers. About 32% of participants attributed the New England Casino Association to their urge to gamble more while general news stories and targeted promotion both reached 28.6% and 26.6%, respectively.

SEIGMA and Volberg also presented recommendations to the MGC on how to provide a safe and fair advertising environment for operators, gambling brands, and state residents.

The recommendations include limiting celebrity endorsements and social media use.