A New York lawmaker’s effort to enact a federal ban on sports betting advertisements is not exactly moving through the halls of Congress at breakneck speed. It has been more than six months since US Rep. Paul Tonko, D-20th, introduced H.R. 967 and the legislation is no further along today than it was in February.
New York is currently the largest legal sports betting market in the country. Following the launch of online sportsbooks in January 2021, sports gambling in NY surpassed New Jersey and Nevada in terms of money wagered and state tax revenue.
Potential ban ‘narrowly targeted’ at predatory sports betting marketing
Speaking at the Racing and Gaming Conference at Saratoga earlier this month, Tonko said there is a need to combat aggressive marketing strategies being used by sportsbook operators. As several states are exploring ways to curtail those tactics, Tonko reiterated his belief that federal regulations are needed to address sports gambling ads.
The Betting on our Future Act is Tonko’s attempt to put words into action. He told conference attendees in Saratoga — parts of which are within Tonko’s district — that his bill is focused on a specific style of gambling marketing, not a blanket ban.
“Let me be clear: This legislation would not in any way ban mobile sports betting,” Tonko said at the industry conference in Saratoga. “It is narrowly targeted at the predatory advertising that has coincided with a significant increase in gambling addiction.”
Concerns over addiction, gambling disorders behind Tonko’s push
It should be noted that the eight-term congressman is the co-chair in the House of the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus. Tonko was a prime House sponsor of the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (MAT), which President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this year.
Tonko’s proposal to impose a federal ban on sports betting ads has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which he is a member. The committee has jurisdiction over healthcare at the federal level.
When Tonko introduced the Betting on our Future Act, he highlighted how sports gambling commercials and ads “pose a particularly dangerous threat to adolescents and young adults unaware of the risks involved in gambling,” as well as “individuals prone to addiction.”
“In the years since the Supreme Court legalized sports betting, these unfettered advertisements have run rampant, with betting companies shelling out billions to ensure they reach every screen across America,” he said at the time, before adding: “The excessive, uncensored promotion of these sites needs to be put in check.”
NY sports betting ad ban following tobacco model
Tonko’s proposal is modeled after the federal ban on tobacco advertising. The tobacco ad ban was also based on the industry’s influence over younger people and minors.
In February, Tonko said:
“The sports betting industry’s incessant targeting and promotion of a known harmful product is no different than the heyday of tobacco advertising — when cigarette brands penned catchy slogans and sponsored popular television shows…While legalized sports gambling may be here to stay, we don’t have to accept the current Wild West system that creates perverse incentives for state regulators and allows predatory advertising to thrive.”
The status of the congressman’s legislation is undecided. As of this summer, he remains its only sponsor.