Part 2 Of VA Sports Betting Rules Gives Lottery Broad, Unclear Oversight On Advertising

Posted on August 12, 2020 - Last Updated on August 26, 2020

The final draft of the Virginia sports betting regulations is now available for everyone to scrutinize. Some areas need attention, specifically due to language that could be too broad.

The greatest example of this is the rules regarding sportsbooks’ advertising. The text, as currently composed, creates more questions than it does answers.

Latest additions to proposed Virginia sports betting regulations

On Monday, Aug. 10, the VA Lottery released the balance of its proposed rules.

The VA Lottery published part one of its draft regs in mid-July in order to be compliant with a state law imposing that deadline.

Most of the new rules will be “Greek” to the average sports bettor, which include:

  • Controls on technical requirements for geolocation.
  • Insurance mandates.
  • Specifications for what identifying details licensees must collect from customers.

Virginia bettors should keep two things in mind when reviewing these regulations.

First, the current documents are a draft. Secondly, anyone interested in commenting on any section of the rules can right now.

The window of opportunity will close at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 9, however. For that reason, it’s important that bettors and other industry stakeholders review the documents and submit comments.

The VA Lottery will consider all feedback before making the sports regulations final. Therefore, this is an opportunity to submit arguments for why the lottery should modify or clarify parts of the sports betting regulations.

For example, the new proposed rules on sportsbooks’ advertising could use some clarifying.

New language on advertising could use some refinement

Part of the latest drop is a new section, 11VAC5-70-240, Advertising and Marketing. The language is mostly directed at operator licensees. However, it also applies to any vendors that sportsbooks might contract with for those specific purposes.

The first subsection is where the VA Lottery may want to tweak the language. It reads:

A. A permit holder shall provide all advertising, marketing, and promotional materials developed by or on behalf of the permit holder by a supplier or vendor to the Director in advance of publication or dissemination for review and approval in accordance with guidelines issued by the Director.

This language raises a few questions. Those include:

  • How far in advance of an operators’ intent to use promotional materials must the licensee submit those materials?
  • Does “advertising, marketing, and promotional materials” include offering specials like bonuses for new customers or merely materials advertising such offers?
  • If the director rejects material, will the operator have to scrap it entirely or can they simply modify the material to comply with the rules?

Other parts of the regulations specify exactly what could cause the director to reject material. That includes the director discerning the material that is aimed at an underage audience.

Another possibility is that a disclaimer advising bettors on how to secure treatment for compulsive gambling isn’t prominent enough. Those resources are part of the draft rules as well.

Establishing a self-exclusion program for VA bettors

With the advent of legal sports betting — and the possible dawn of brick-and-mortar casinos — in VA, the state must take appropriate measures to protect those with compulsive gambling issues.

That’s what the proposed self-exclusion program is all about.

Self-exclusion is exactly what it sounds like. The program would give VA bettors the option to ban themselves from gambling in the state, effectively.

In the draft regulations, VA gamblers would have three options for the duration of that ban. They could bar themselves for two years, five years or for a lifetime.

Once a person adds themselves to the list, it would bar all licensed gambling companies in VA from accepting wagers from said person. Licensees also could not send electronic or physical marketing materials to those enrolled in the program.

For those who choose a shorter duration, there are protocols for requesting removal from the program once that time period elapses. Removal would not be automatic at the end of those two- or five-year periods.

Just as all Virginians should gamble responsibly, all those in the state who would like to have a voice in the sports betting regulations should make themselves heard soon. On Sept. 10, it will be too late to have such a direct impact.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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