As broadcasters chase a new ad category opened up by the surging legal gambling industry, the American Gaming Association (AGA) has issued a new set of self-regulations for sports betting advertising and marketing. The new “Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering,” which has parallels to restrictions placed on alcohol advertising, comes on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which paved the way for the new industry to flourish.

The new code, which applies to both traditional and digital media marketing, includes self-imposed restrictions on target audiences, outlets and branding materials.

The AGA has traditionally represented the $261 billion U.S. casino industry. But with legalized wagering on sporting events a relatively new activity in a growing number of states, the trade association says it’s extending its compliance commitments to address new concerns that have sprung up.

Using gambling and casino advertising as a forerunner of what’s to come, Borrell Associates CEO Gordon Borrell last year forecast about $300 million in new ad revenue for radio from sports betting.

The practices AGA members have agreed to adhere to include some that are similar to restrictions on advertising for alcoholic beverages and legal marijuana. Chief among them is an agreement to not directly target individuals under the legal age for sports betting. Specifically, the code stipulates that ads for sports wagering should only be placed in broadcast, cable, radio, print or digital media where at least 71.6% of the audience is reasonably expected to be of legal gambling age. The code also requires advertisers and their media partners to rely on “reliable, up-to-date audience composition data” to make that determination. And it forbids promoting or advertising sports betting in college or university-owned news properties, including school newspapers, radio or television stations or ads on college campuses.

Similarly, ads should not be displayed at an event where most of the audience at the venue is expected to be below the legal age for sports wagering.

‘Responsible Gaming’ Messages

Developed in coordination with its members, the AGA code also addresses the issue of commercial creative. It stipulates that no sports betting ads and marketing messages should be designed to appeal primarily to those below the legal age. This involves avoiding “entertainers or music that appeal primarily to audiences below the legal age” or including cartoon characters in visual messages.

“Sports wagering is an entertainment activity that should be consumed only by responsible adults, and marketed accordingly to that audience,” the voluntary code states.

As with the “drink responsibly” messages that have become standard fare in beer ads, the AGA has also pledged to integrate a “responsible gaming” message into ads, along with a toll-free help line number where practical. Also verboten are ad messages that suggest guarantees of social, financial or personal success from sports betting.

To monitor code compliance, the trade group will offer biannual training opportunities for members and their employees involved in advertising or marketing. AGA members are also required to deliver a copy of the code to all the ad agencies and media buyers they work with. In addition there are voluntary requirements for AGA members to adopt internal review processes.

AGA President & CEO Bill Miller says the code is intended to extend the gaming industry’s commitment to responsibility to the growing sportsbook sector. “We are setting a high bar for sports betting advertising and will continue to ensure that everyone involved in the expansion of legalized sports betting across the country – gaming operators, sports leagues and teams, broadcasters and other businesses – rise to this standard.”

Since PASPA was overturned in May 2018, seven new states began offering single-game legal sports betting. Six more states and the District of Columbia have authorized legal markets, and dozens more have introduced legislation to legalize and regulate sports betting.

In the past year, nearly $8 billion has been legally wagered on sports nationwide, $3 billion of which was wagered outside of Nevada. Post-PASPA, legal sports betting has generated $55.3 million in new state and local tax revenue.

To some extent radio is already reaping some of the benefits of legalized sports-wagering and that should only increase in coming years as legalized sports betting spreads across the country. “If I were a betting man, I would wager that radio could hit a revenue trifecta with bigger bucks, larger pools of listeners and expanded bottom lines from the benefit of legalized betting,” Pearlman Advisors president David Pearlman told Inside Radio. “Marketers will be betting big on radio’s reach to lure listeners on to their books.”