Marketing law has been a long-neglected component of American sports betting law. Most states allow “risk-free” language to be applied to welcome bonuses that demand risk from bettors. Some states prohibit ads that encourage excessive participation in sports betting. Others lack specific prohibitions on those types of ads. So, Maryland sports betting law has a significant challenge to meet.
Maryland prohibits sports betting ads that are “deceptive” or that target prohibited bettors or problem gamblers. These are standard prohibitions in sports betting marketing law across states.
However, Ohio goes a step further. It explicitly prohibits “risk-free” language from bonuses that require bettors to spend money first. Ohio also prohibits ads that “promote irresponsible or excessive participation in sports gaming, or suggest that social, financial, or personal success is guaranteed by engaging in sports gaming.”
The industry’s challenge is to keep sportsbook ads from endorsing gambling myths that lead to problem gambling. Sportsbooks have the right to put their best offers forward and to offer opportunities to gamble. They are gambling companies competing with each other, after all.
But sportsbooks can’t promote gambling myths to attract customers — many of whom aren’t familiar enough with sportsbook bonus terms to understand bonus terms at a glance.
Why Gambling Marketing Regulations are Important
An ad that encourages betting late into the night or during work hours crosses the line into unethical advertising. It plays off the myth that the longer gamblers play, the better their chances of winning.
This myth comes from a misunderstanding about how gambling probabilities work. The odds are stacked against bettors in the long run. In sports betting, bets with great odds, like futures, have many potential losses built into them. By the time a sportsbook has to pay winnings, it has already made enough money from losing bettors to pay the winners and still profit.
Occasionally, bettors will make a big win. But these big wins won’t happen often enough to make up for the usual losses bettors incur over a lifetime of betting. Lucky moments don’t make bettors rich or bankrupt sportsbooks.
Advertisements that make more frequent gambling sound like a viable form of entertainment are misleading. They lend credence to the myth that sports bettors can win if they keep betting.
An ad doesn’t have to endorse gambling myths explicitly to be harmful to consumers. Implying that gambling at unreasonable times is a normal part of sports betting is enough to mislead bettors into thinking it’s not potentially dangerous.
Remaining Gaps in Maryland Sports Betting Law
Maryland’s sports betting law may seem to cover misleading advertising. But the prohibition on “deceptive” advertising hasn’t stopped risk-free bets from being freely offered in every American sports betting market. It doesn’t solve the eternal problem of regulating social media advertising. Even the United Kingdom struggles with the challenges of social media marketing in the gambling industry.
Sports betting advertising isn’t prioritized when there are more important issues on the political agenda. But with proper marketing restrictions, this doesn’t have to consume much energy. It’s harder to change laws than it is to write them correctly the first time. Leaving one class of under-addressed ads out of Maryland sports betting law will be an ongoing area of concern once the sports betting ads pour into the state.
AP Photo/Julio Cortez