As Kentucky inches closer to launching its sports betting market, one expert believes the state could take a page out of Massachusetts’ responsible gaming efforts.
Gaming Today discussed the issue with Greenberg Traurig Law Firm shareholder Mark Hichar. Hichar’s expertise revolves around casinos, gaming system providers, operators, and investors in the gambling sector.
Hichar is based out of Boston with his work with the law firm. Thus, he worked closely with Massachusetts’ online sports betting launch in March.
According to him, Massachusetts is among the top states policing sports betting advertising. Hichar believes the Kentucky sports betting market would be wise to follow in the Bay State’s footsteps.
Massachusetts Is an Industry Leader When It Comes to Responsible Gaming
Hichar highlighted Massachusetts’ efforts against problem gambling as one of the areas in which it stands out.
“I think Massachusetts is a leader in responsible gaming,” he noted.
Hichar explained that his biggest takeaway, now five months into legal online sports betting in Massachusetts, is how much advertising goes on.
“You can’t help but notice the plethora of advertising that comes with going live in sports betting,” he said.
Massachusetts, though, made sure that advertisements aren’t targeted toward those under 21. Additionally, the state made a concerted effort to make sure the promotions that did target the proper audience had adequate language.
Specifically, Barstool Sportsbook came under fire after questions arose surrounding personality Dan Katz’s “Can’t Lose Parlay.”
Katz’s brand is largely satirical. He’s been on the record speaking about just how terrible his sports betting track record is. But still, branding something that has a chance to fail as “can’t lose” didn’t sit right with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
In short, the MGC Investigations Enforcement Bureau ruled that this promo violated promotional language guidelines. The promotion has since been removed.
It’s the latest effort in the recent move of sportsbooks pivoting around their language. Operators like BetMGM Sportsbook have scrapped promotions mentioning “free bets” or “risk-free” wagers.
And Massachusetts is at the forefront, leading that charge. Not just with promotional language, but other areas, such as age demographics and account limitations.
“I think Massachusetts has paid particular care to ensure that the advertising is not focused at underage people,” Hichar said. “I know that’s been a major focus of the hearings and regulations. And among other things, when you open an account, you can set limits on your wagering, which I think is one thing they are doing to aid those who might be at risk of problem gambling, which is a large focus here in Massachusetts.”
Kentucky Took a Page Out of MA’s Book With Clear Language Guidance
Kentucky’s emergency regulations call for sports betting advertisements to be honest and accurate. There will be no use of verbiage such as “free bets” or “risk-free wagers.”
Here’s a look at what the regulations state:
“A licensee shall not allow, conduct, or participate in any false or misleading advertising or marketing concerning the licensee’s sports wagering operations.
“A licensee shall only make representation concerning winnings that are accurate, not misleading, and capable of substantiation at the time of representation. For purposes of this subsection, an advertisement shall be misleading if the advertisement makes representations about average winnings without equally prominently representing the average net winnings of all patrons.”
It appears as though Kentucky is following Massachusetts’ lead when it comes to eradicating any gray area with sports betting advertisements.
“Kentucky has in its advertising regulations a specific provision related to misleading advertising, so as to address the risk presented by overly flowery advertisements,” Hichar said. “I think this is something that is becoming more and more focused and probably will continue to be a focus of gambling regulators in the United States, but I do believe Massachusetts is among the leaders in this area.”
Funding Sports Betting Accounts With Credit Cards
Each state is different when it comes to the many intricacies of its respective sports betting laws. For instance, states like Massachusetts do not allow bettors to add funds to their accounts through credit cards.
Kentucky, though, gave credit cards the green light in its approved regulations.
“I would suggest that (Kentucky) keeps an eye on funding accounts through credit. Not all states allow it,” Hichar advised. “No doubt this was done with open eyes and with an eye on the differences in Kentuckians versus Massachusetts voters.”
The issue with credit cards is that the fees stack up quickly. Unlike using a debit card, which funnels money directly out of your bank account in real time, credit card users can essentially gamble more than they can afford. It’s another wrinkle in responsible gambling.
Why Did Kentucky Regulations Allow 18-Year-Olds to Wager on Sports?
Hichar has a hunch.
In Kentucky, horse racing is wildly popular. Most people think of the sport, and their first thoughts are about the Kentucky Derby and the Churchill Downs brand. Horse racing is synonymous with the state.
But in Kentucky, the age to legally participate in pari-mutuel betting is 18. Hichar thinks it might not be a coincidence.
“I think that may be a function, among other things, of the fact that pari-mutuel wagering has an 18-year age minimum,” he said. “It would be difficult, perhaps, to allow people under 21 to wager on pari-mutuel events at a racing facility but not be allowed to wager on sporting events. I can understand that there would be various difficulties. That may have played a factor, but I don’t know.”
There is no clear-cut mold for how to frame a sports betting market, especially when it comes to specific age restrictions.
Most states set their legal sports betting age at 21. Wyoming, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C., are the other US jurisdictions that allow 18-year-olds to partake.
“I don’t mean that to be in any way critical of other states, it’s just that legislatures know their citizenry, and that is why sports betting in Massachusetts — and gambling in general — is largely a state issue,” Hichar said. “States have their state-specific rules related to wagering that are custom-tailored to their citizens. Different state legislators view things differently, and that’s the way it should be.”