AGA Updates Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Betting

Written By J.R. Duren on March 31, 2023 - Last Updated on October 9, 2023
college students aga marketing code responsible

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has updated its marketing code, focusing on clearer wording and boundaries for the relationship between US online gambling, advertising, and college audiences.

The AGA announced the changes in a letter from CEO Bill Miller. Mill said the new changes to the code are meant to improve consumer protections in the AGA’s Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering.

“We know advertising plays an essential role in building a competitive legal market, migrating consumers away from the predatory illegal marketplace, and advancing responsible gaming education while marketing problem gambling resources. We also know that a sustainable marketplace is dependent on our ability to advertise responsibly and protect consumers. Today’s progress is an important step to achieving both of these critical goals.”

AGA makes significant changes to marketing code

Miller announced multiple updates to the AGA’s rules for responsible marketing:

  • A prohibition on college partnerships that “promote, market, or advertise” sports betting activity
  • Ban on NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals for college and amateur athletes
  • Actors in sports betting ads must be at least 21 years old
  • Prohibition on the phrase “risk-free” in advertising
  • References to the “legal age of wagering” must include “21+”
  • Launching an annual review process for the code

As a whole, the changes acknowledge that the relationship between sports betting and college campuses is getting out of hand. Millions of college students are under 21. For that reason, it just doesn’t make sense for the AGA’s members to partner with colleges and universities on ad campaigns underage students will see.

Additionally, marketing phrases like “risk-free” give people the impression they’ve got nothing to lose. This simply isn’t a responsible way to brand sports betting. Risk is always a factor in wagering.

Updates are a step in the right direction

Simply put, the AGA’s changes are much needed in light of recent events on college campuses.

For example, PointsBook Sportsbook and the University of Colorado signed a partnership deal in 2020. That partnership came under scrutiny as people questioned why colleges have partnerships with sportsbooks when campuses are replete with students who are under the legal gambling age.

That scrutiny transformed into calls for the partnership to end and, earlier this month, PointsBook and Colorado ended their partnership.

In December, the Ohio Casino Control Commission recommended a $250,000 fine for Barstool Sportsbook after the operator pushed one of its betting promos during a November event at the University of Toledo.

More work is needed to protect college students

While the AGA’s changes are a good move, one wonders how effective it will be in protecting college students.

The AGA marketing code isn’t law. Sportsbooks have shown they’ve got no problem testing the limits of what’s allowed in the states in which they operate.

The cost of that willingness to bend or break the rules isn’t just a matter of, say, a $250,000 fine. As the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) pointed out in 2021, college students and college athletes are at a higher risk for problem gambling than the general population.

“The best way to protect students and student athletes from gambling addiction is for all parties to work together to provide education, awareness and help on this hidden addiction,” the NCPG wrote. “Institutions of higher learning have a great responsibility toward their students, in this as in other aspects, to ensure that their educational environment does not present a danger but helps them to be successful as students and adults.”

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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