Massachusetts Considers Ban on Sportsbook Promos That Stray Far Afield

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will discuss regulatory language that could change how sports betting operators can market to consumers outside of their sportsbooks. This is according to a public hearing by the MGC on Tuesday.

A proposed regulation in Ohio inspired MGC Commissioner Eileen O’Brien to request her colleagues discuss the issue. In Tuesday’s hearing, the commission agreed to have their legal counsel draft a few regulatory samples that operators could see and comment on.

The core of the issue is “non-gambling promotions via sports wagering operators” in their non-sports betting activity. For example, Fanatics including promotions or marketing of the Fanatics Sportsbook in their retail apparel stores. Or Hard Rock Bet being promoted inside a Hard Rock restaurant.

Details of Potential Sportsbook Promo Restrictions

The Ohio legislation would require operators to use care when attempting to acquire customers “as a result of a non-gaming consumer transaction unless the promotion or bonus doesn’t target people under 21 or other vulnerable individuals,” said Carrie Torrisi, Deputy General Counsel for the MGC, during her report to the commission.

Essentially, the proposed Ohio regulation would require sports betting operators with non-gaming interests to use the same safeguards when communicating with consumers in their non-sports wagering business. Massachusetts has yet to draft language for debate on this issue, but the state does have some of the most expansive regulations on marketing and branding that could be seen by people under 21.

The Massachusetts sports betting regulations differ from the proposed Ohio language in that they do not specifically address sports wagering operators “cross-promoting products that are available to people under [the age of] 21,” said Mina Makarious of Anderson & Kreiger LLP, who frequently consults on gaming law and regulations to the MGC.

The Ohio regulation is pending a vote on the regulatory language last submitted to that body in November of 2023.

“I would actually like to see…proposed language,” O’Brien said. “We have [a more] pointed regulation on advertising [by sports betting operators] already, and one of our operators [has] flagged our regulation as an alternative [to what Ohio is debating].”

Related Pages: Ohio Sports BettingLegal Sports Betting StatesSports Betting Revenue

Between a Rock and a Hard Place?

Commissioner O’Brien also expressed her desire to have the Massachusetts sports betting operators meet with the MGC to give comments on the issue.

Hard Rock, which has several restaurants and cafes besides its casinos and sports betting app, may be among the brands most challenged by such a regulatory change. However, O’Brien indicated that in Ohio, Hard Rock explained that it would not have difficulty because it’s not going to market that way.

O’Brien, who has consistently expressed her commitment to responsible marketing, explained that in Ohio, the Campaign for Gambling asserted that “the younger you get exposed [to sports betting], the more chance [for] being at risk later.”

When crafting potential language to regulate sports betting operators, the goal, says the MGC, is to protect the community.

“[We’re] making sure that [operators] are not getting to people under 21, branding them, and getting them used to [the sports betting brand] for later,” O’Brien said.

“You can’t target someone under 21 with your same logo on your t-shirt,” acting MGC chairman Jordan Maynard said.

Operators Weigh in on Ohio Legislation

Sports betting licensees have already weighed in on the possible regulations in Ohio, sharing their concerns.

FanDuel Ohio expressed that outside of a sports betting app or system, it may not have access to the demographic data of an audience that would be needed to comply with such a regulation. The company also mentioned that such a regulation may limit its partnership opportunities with non-gaming brands.

Fanatics explained that strict regulations that ensure marketing doesn’t inadvertently land in front under 21 audiences could lead to a heavier reliance on blanket advertising such as television and radio ads. Commissioner Nakisha Skinner supports O’Brien’s call for draft language but also shared that it’s “important not to consider changes to regulations in a vacuum, and identify clearly if there are any gaps in our regulations, if any.”


About the Author
Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

Writer and Contributor
Dan Holmes is a veteran writer and contributor for Gaming Today. He has written three books, including The Ballplayers: Baseball’s Greatest Players Remembered, Ranked, and Revealed, which will be released in 2024. Holmes has previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball.

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