How Pro Sports League Responsible Gambling Coalition Will Affect Virginia

Written By Adam Hensley on May 1, 2023
VA Responsible Gambling Advertising Coalition

If you’re watching a professional sporting event on TV in Virginia, there’s a chance you’ll see more responsible sports betting advertisements.

North America’s top sports leagues announced the formation of the Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising. FOX and NBCUniversal joined in, too.

The NFL, NBA, WNBA, NHL, NASCAR and MLS combined forces in order to combat problematic sports betting ads, and the coalition’s work will add another angle to the Virginia responsible gambling resources.

“As the legalization of sports betting spreads nationwide, we feel it is critical to establish guardrails around how sports betting should be advertised to consumers across the United States,” a statement from the coalition reads. “Each member of the coalition feels a responsibility to ensure sports betting advertising is not only targeted to an appropriate audience, but also that the message is thoughtfully crafted and carefully delivered.”

Responsible sports betting advertisements are the goal

The coalition’s pledge includes six specific improvements:

  • Sports betting should be marketed only to adults of legal betting age.
  • Betting advertising should not promote irresponsible or excessive gambling or degrade the consumer experience.
  • Sports betting advertisements should not be misleading.
  • Sports betting advertisements should be in good taste.
  • Publishers should have appropriate internal reviews of sports betting advertisements.
  • Publishers should review consumer complaints pertaining to sports betting advertising.

“While providing new fan engagement opportunities to enjoy our sport in more ways, we have to continue to be mindful and deliberate with how these sports betting options are presenting and to whom they’re directed,” MLB Executive Vice President of Media & Business Development Kenny Gersh said in a release.

Tackling the topic of ‘free bets’ and implementing publisher review

Most of the goals are pretty straightforward. But there are a few important verbiages to highlight.

There’s been plenty of talk around the concept of “free” bets as part of sportsbook promotions. And the coalition wants prospective bettors to know all the risks.

“Sports betting advertisements and marketing should not promote unrealistic expectations of financial gain, or suggest that social, financial or personal success is guaranteed by engaging in sports betting,” the statements reads.

Additionally, it’s worth pointing out the coalition’s desire to hear from consumers. In addition to having a review process for the ads, the coalition states that publishers must create a process to listen to complaints.

“Publishers showing sports betting advertising should develop and implement a process to review consumer complaints pertaining to advertising,” the statement reads.

The coalition did not mention any specifics regarding this review process. However, Gersh noted that it’s a team effort that requires “thoughtful planning.”

“Layering this coalition’s work in the advertising arena on top of our efforts to promote responsible gambling and address problem gambling challenges will lead to more thoughtful planning and implementation across the board,” Gersh said.

Virginia is no stranger to responsible betting advertisements

Back in March, the Virginia Lottery announced its responsible gambling campaign with a creative ad. The lottery focused its National Problem Gambling Awareness Month campaign on the topic of alienation.

The PSA video included a man who donned an alien costume. The actor said he “wasn’t myself” when he was gambling and that he felt as though he’d “become alien.”

The image of an alien watching a sporting event in a living room among humans is funny to picture. But the lottery’s emphasis is a serious one.

The Virginia Lottery says problem gambling includes behaviors that “compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits.”

The coalition says its efforts are ‘fundamental’

Sports betting remains legal in 33 states (including Virginia) and Washington D.C., and that number will continue to grow.

And as sports betting’s popularity skyrockets, so does its exposure. There’s a clear battle between the operators for customers, which means more advertisements in various forms.

Because of this, the coalition believes its fight is vital.

“These fundamental efforts will contribute to creating a safe, entertaining and sustainable market for sports fans to engage with legalized sports betting,” said Scott Kaufman-Ross, the NBA and WNBA’s head of gaming and new business ventures.

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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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