Sports Betting Ads Subject To Spectrum Of State Marketing Rules

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In most American markets, sports betting ads are everywhere. Sportsbook operators advertise large welcome bonuses, which are sometimes pitched as “risk-free.” Through the early years of expanding legalization in the U.S., there has been little restriction on this type of marketing. There are signs, however, that this may be changing, as new markets begin to restrict the ways sportsbooks can market their offers to new customers.

Welcome bonus restrictions are one area markets are beginning to handle differently. 

Three Approaches To Sports Betting Marketing   

These are three ways North American sports betting markets have approached sportsbook ads: 

  • No language restrictions 
  • Language restrictions 
  • No welcome bonus advertising 

Most markets have adopted the first approach. Sportsbook brands are free to advertise $1,500 deposit bonuses and $1,000 risk-free bets upon signup, for example. Sportsbooks must include the bonus terms in fine print or on a terms and conditions page. Recently-legalized markets like New York and maturing markets like Colorado have taken this approach. Aside from a few conditions requiring bonus terms, sportsbooks can freely advertise welcome bonuses to attract customers. They can also use terms like “risk-free bet”, which means a sportsbook matches a customer’s deposit with credits that must be wagered before they are withdrawn.     

Ohio, which is slated to launch its legal sports betting industry on January 1, 2023, has taken a firmer approach. Ohio’s marketing rules prohibit sportsbooks from using the term “risk-free” in their bonuses unless bettors really don’t have to risk their own money to receive credits. Ohio bettors won’t see ads for $1,000 risk-free bets. Instead, they may see ads for “bet insurance”, which is a more accurate name for the way risk-free bets work. With bet insurance, a sportsbook customer receives the amount of what is typically their first bet, should it lose, in the form of site credit that must be wagered again.

Ontario, the first Canadian province to allow regulated sportsbooks, has gone even further. It prohibits sportsbooks from using welcome bonuses, or any language considered to be an inducement, to market at all. Instead, sportsbooks must rely on traditional marketing. Ontario’s goal was to reduce unpopular sports betting ads and protect potential problem gamblers.    

There’s No Real Middle Ground 

Most sports betting markets have similar approaches in terms of how operators can market their products. Sportsbooks have to offer clear bonus terms. They can’t target people who are too young to gamble. Some markets regulate the time sports betting ads can run. The largest differences in marketing regulations concern bonus advertising. 

There’s a spectrum of marketing restrictions that run from allowing unrestricted bonus advertising to banning them altogether. Most American markets are on the unrestrictive end of the spectrum, and Ontario is on the restrictive end. Ohio’s approach is in between them, but it leans heavily toward the unrestrictive side that characterizes much of the United States. Ohio prohibits “risk-free” language for all offers besides free credits. But Ohio does not restrict the hours during which sportsbooks may advertise. It also doesn’t specify how clearly bonus terms must be displayed. 

A welcome change would force bonus terms to be displayed more prominently. For example, sportsbooks could be required to show bettors how many site credits they stand to gain from deposits and wagers of different sizes. This information could be displayed on confirmation screens. This would bring bonus terms out of the fine print into a visible and clear display. While Ohio is clamping down on an important element of bonus advertising, it’s not even close to the nice neat “middle” of the spectrum of marketing regulations.    

About the Author
Christopher Gerlacher

Christopher Gerlacher

Writer and Contributor
Christopher Gerlacher is a Senior Writer and contributor for Gaming Today. He is a versatile and experienced writer with an impressive portfolio who has range from political and legislative pieces to sports and sports betting. He's a devout Broncos fan, for better or for worse, living in the foothills of Arvada, Colorado.

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