Sports leagues unite to set limits on betting ads

A group of professional sports leagues and media outlets have formed a coalition that aims to ensure a responsible approach to sports betting advertising, which has increased dramatically over the past five years and caught the attention of politicians.

The Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising, announced Wednesday, consists of the NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, WNBA and NASCAR. Media outlets NBCUniversal and Fox have joined the coalition, whose formation was led by NFL vice president of public policy and government affairs Jonathan Nabavi.

“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,” the coalition said in a statement. “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.”

The coalition aims to implement and maintain consumer protection policies built on six core principles:

• Sports betting should be marketed only to adults of legal betting age.

• Sports 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 advertising.

• Publishers should review consumer complaints pertaining to sports betting advertising.

“The National Council on Problem Gambling commends the Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising for recognizing the importance of responsible sports betting advertising and taking steps to lead the industry in proactive change to protect consumers,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. “We believe that with continued collaboration we can better mitigate problem gambling related harm.”

The formation of the coalition comes ahead of the five-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that struck down the federal statute that had restricted regulated sports betting to primarily Nevada.

Since the May 14, 2018, ruling, 33 states and the District of Columbia have launched legal betting markets, and commercials for sportsbook operators are now prevalent during broadcasts. In 2019, the first full year of expanded regulated sports betting, sportsbook brands spent $21.4 million on national TV commercials. In 2022, that figure grew to $314.6 million, according to data from iSpot, which measures TV advertising and audiences.

“Legalized sports betting offers fans another way to engage with their favorite sports, but just as we must support problem gambling prevention and resourcing, we must also remain mindful of how sports betting is presented and advertised to consumers, and this coalition should greatly aid in that cause,” David Highhill, the NFL’s general manager of sports betting, said in the release.

In February, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko of New York introduced the Betting on our Future Act that aims “reel in the problematic rise of predatory advertising by sports gambling companies.”