New York Initiates Crackdown on Sports Betting Marketing

New York state regulators are taking steps to tighten restrictions on sports betting marketing, including curtailing the messaging received by people under the age of 21 and cracking down on the use of language such as “free” or “risk-free” in promotions.

The New York State Gaming Commission voted unanimously Monday to adopt a proposed rule banning the state’s nine mobile sportsbook operators from promoting any bet that requires a bettor to risk their own money as “free, cost-free, or free of risk.” The proposed change comes about one year after New York launched mobile sports betting, generating over $900 million in state revenue so far.

The Empire State is the latest to revisit “free” or “risk-free” promotions in recent months. Ohio made national headlines in January when it issued notices of violation to BetMGM, DraftKings, and Caesars for running similar promotions

The proposed rule changes in New York follow underage gambling concerns expressed by NYSGC Chair Brian O’Dwyer. A Feb. 21 memo from NYSGC Counsel Edmund Burns said the proposal “addresses several topics that are of substantial state interests and tailored to protect consumers and (discourage) participation by underage persons.” 

The proposal now goes for public comment, with final approval pending. 

Ban on ‘False, Deceptive, or Misleading Statements’ Proposed

A ban on “free” and “risk-free” language in sportsbook promotions would fall under a prohibition on “false, deceptive, or misleading statements” in the proposed rule.

Additionally, the proposal would create new limits on advertising and marketing on college and university campuses or via any type of media (including social media) geared mostly toward persons under age 21 – the legal betting age in New York. 

Restrictions on sports betting advertising would apply to “broadcast, cable, radio, print or digital communications” with a large underage audience.  Additional restrictions would ban cartoon characters, entertainers, and music popular with underage audiences from being used in sports betting messaging.

A ban on the use of sports betting logos and brand names on clothing, toys, or any merchandise geared toward persons under age 21 also falls under the proposal.

Related: U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) Files Bill To Ban Sports Betting Advertising

Marketing Affiliates To Be Restricted Under Proposed Rule

Marketing affiliates are also addressed in the proposed rule. Under the proposal, sportsbooks could not enter into compensation agreements with third-party affiliates. 

Currently in New York, third-party marketing affiliates are paid for directing bettors to sportsbook apps. Those agreements would disappear under the proposal. 

A similar rule proposed in Massachusetts could be considered by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission as early as Wednesday. Sportsbooks and affiliates appealed to the Bay State to waive the rule in a roundtable discussion Monday. 

Next Steps in New York

Monday’s vote was a first step toward changing New York’s mobile sports betting marketing and advertising rules. It would take time before the rule is final. 

The next step is publication of the rule in the New York State Register for public notice. A 60-day public comment period will follow. The commission will have an opportunity to adopt, revise, or withdraw the rule after that time. 

That said, the NYSGC seems intent on making a change.  O’Dwyer’s comments on Monday indicate he thinks the rule is necessary. 

“After one year, it is particularly incumbent on us to understand both the successes and problems engendered by the legislation,” O’Dwyer told the commission.

“I am satisfied that the proposed rules are an important initial step in addressing the concerns of the commission regarding the targeting of college campuses for the promotion of mobile sports wagering,” he said.

photo by: Heitor Pergher 

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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