While individual states look to curb the advertising and marketing of legal sports betting, Rep. Paul Tonko has taken the issue to the next level.
The congressman from New York introduced the “Betting on Our Future Act” recently. If passed, it would make it unlawful to advertise a sportsbook on “any medium of electronic communication subject to jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission,” such as TV, radio and the internet. As a result, sportsbooks — including those operating in the NY sports betting industry — would be restricted to old-school advertising tactics, like mailouts, print media and billboards.
In his tweet publicizing the act, Tonko said the proposal’s intent is “to take federal action to reel in the problematic rise of predatory advertising by sports gambling companies.
“Many of you have noticed these incessant ads, which experts say are contributing to a rise in problem gambling.”
Sportsbooks using ‘predatory tactics’ for marketing
Tonko noted that his proposal was modeled after the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, which banned tobacco advertisements. According to Tonko, with legal gambling now as accessible as simply clicking a button on your phone, sports betting companies have started using “a variety of predatory tactics” to lure and retain new customers.
This includes rolling out promotions with the phrases “risk-free” and “no sweat” bets.
“Sports betting advertisements are out of control,” Tonko said in a statement. “Congress needs to reel in an industry with the power to inflict real, widespread harm on the American people.”
Sports gambling companies have certainly spared no expense building and maintaining their customer bases. According to a fact sheet from Tonko, DraftKings Sportsbook spent $500 million in sales and marketing in 2020, followed by another $400 million over the first two quarters the following year.
Tonko emphasizes exposure of legal gambling to youth
At the heart of his fact sheet, Tonko highlighted the need to shelter children and young people from the proliferation of legalized gambling.
The sheet emphasized that children and young people represent the fastest-growing demographic of gamblers. Citing the International Center for Youth Gambling Problems & High-Risk Behaviors, the sheet noted that between 60% and 80% of high school students reported they gambled for money.
It certainly doesn’t help that colleges and universities have begun partnering with sports gambling companies, such as Louisiana State teaming with Caesars Sportsbook. This, according to the fact sheet, provides the gambling industry with “direct access to a new and impressionable generation of gamblers.”
On top of that, per the sheet and citing Pew Research, 1 in 5 American adults bet money on sports in 2022. This came on the heels of the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network seeing a 45% increase in calls between 2021 and 2022. All told, an estimated 7 million individuals in the country have a gambling problem and/or gambling addiction.
NCPG has also seen significant increases in calls, texts and chats to the National Problem Gambling Helpline — roughly a 45% increase in calls between 2021 and 2022.
The argument, of course, is that these “predatory tactics” by sports betting companies only exacerbates the problem.
NCPG supports federal involvement, though remains neutral on proposal
For its part, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) “welcomes” federal involvement in problem gambling. That said, according to a statement, the NCPG “does not endorse nor oppose” the Betting on Our Future Act.
The organization continues to focus on the lack of federal funding for problem gambling treatment and research, which pales in comparison to the dedicated monies that goes toward alcohol, tobacco and drug addiction programs. This despite the risk of gambling addiction spiking by an estimated 30$ from 2018 to 2021.
The NCPG expressed an urgent need for a “comprehensive publicly funded problem gambling program” that addresses prevention, treatment and research services across the country “to protect the public and reduce the social costs of gambling related harm.”
As such, according to the NCPG statement, now is the time for federal involvement in easing the negative consequences stemming from gambling.
“NCPG stands ready and willing to assist members of Congress or the Executive branch in determining and implementing policies that will reduce the rate of problem gambling.”
Senate bill addresses NY sports betting advertising
While it doesn’t ban certain marketing tactics altogether, a bill proposal in the New York Senate does address how sports betting companies advertise.
A proposal from Sen. Leroy Comrie and Sen. Luis R. Sepulveda would require all ads to include information regarding the potential harmful and addictive effects of gambling along with a hotline number. The bill — referred to the Senate Committee for Racing, Gaming, and Wagering — represents lawmakers’ awareness to be proactive in identifying and preventing gambling problems.
“The advent of the internet has made gambling more accessible through online betting platform,” the proposal states.
“As gambling becomes more easily accessed by more people, the number of lives negatively affected by gambling has also increased. This can lead to serious consequences for both the gambler and their family.”