Gambling Ads Are on the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Radar

The interest in advertising practices concerning the gambling industry is increasing among gaming regulators in Massachusetts. Not only that but changes in the way the betting industry is regulated in the state are also likely to occur. Wagering has proven to be quite profitable this year, with the three biggest resorts recording $92 million in revenue in August.

On Tuesday, the Gaming Commission reviewed a report from the responsible gaming and research team on the results of a six-year study concerning problem gambling, which was released back in April. This study had lots of valuable information as it identified the demographic groups that are at risk of developing gambling problems, people of lower income and males included.

The Policy Recommendations Included Limited Advertising

The director of research and responsible gambling of the commission, Mark Vander Linden, proposed a few policy updates, one of which was limiting gambling advertising, as well as its availability. As he states, these policies should mostly be enforced with groups that are at risk of experiencing gambling harms and in lower-income neighborhoods.

Vander Linden told commissioners that it may be difficult to achieve that, but if it is well-known that people in groups that have low incomes or specific groups that are more vulnerable to gambling harms are at greater risk, then the right thing to do is to act on it.

While speaking on the topic on Thursday, commissioners weren’t asked to take any action. Cathy Judd-Stein, the Chairwoman of the Commission, stated that during her tenure, nothing has been discussed and that dates back to 2019. Commissioner Gayle Cameron, who has been working since the inception of the Commission, stated that she remembers an advertising-related matter before the regulator was discussing the proposal by MGM Springfield. This proposal concerned moving-image digital signs on I-91 that were visible to drivers.

Cameron added that the one thing that the Commission hasn’t had before are reports concerning inflammatory advertising. She considers the advertising to be extremely harmful to both young people and low-income neighborhoods.

The Commission has Guidance on Casino Advertising, According to Vander Linden

Vander Linden stated that the Gaming Commission has guidance on casino advertising that is within the state’s gaming framework, as well as guidance of the casino industry that was set by the American Gaming Association (AGA).

However, both Commissioner Brad Hill and Cameron stated on Thursday if sports betting becomes legal in Massachusetts, which is currently very slowly moving forward, advertising of this type could become a greater problem. In July, House representatives and Hill voted to approve betting on sports and put the Gaming Commission in charge of regulating it, but the Senate didn’t show any interest. The Gaming Commission is likely to add these activities under its wing in the case of sports betting breaking through its Beacon Hill logjam.

While referring to the National League wild-card game, Hill said that while watching the baseball game, a DraftKings ad was always present at the right-hand corner on the TV and that it was present during every inning. Not only that but the ad was pushed again and again throughout the entirety of the game.

Vander Linden pointed out that there are definitely lessons that need to be learned from other jurisdictions and from adverting sports wagering. He also highlighted the so-called “whistle-to-whistle” sports betting advertising ban, which is similar to the UK’s policy on banning betting ads while live sporting events are taking place.

He said that if the state goes down that path, it is something that definitely needs to be considered. The attention that regulators gave to casino gambling and sports betting advertising is similar to the massive daily sports fantasy rise in popularity in Massachusetts and how it got to the radar of the regulators.

In September 2015, numerous ads on daily fantasy sports on both TV and the Internet were running and ads were plastered at many public places, with one of them being South Station. Attorney General Maura Healey launched a review of the industry and DraftKings at the time, and that led to penalties for both FanDuel and DraftKings. It also brought daily fantasy sports consumer protection regulations.

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