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Massachusetts Regulators Face Criticism For Not Imposing Stricter Ad Rules 

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on March 29, 2023
Massachusetts More Rules Needed For Massachusetts Gambling Ad GameSense

Since Massachusetts sports betting went live on Mar. 10, there has been an overflow of gambling ads on tv, radio and social media. The media content featuring local sports heroes promoting gambling apps reached an audience of all ages, including young children.

That said, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) faced criticism for not doing enough to protect consumers from Massachusetts sports betting advertising. Attorney General Andrea Campbell was one of many who urged the commission to impose stricter ad rules.

An exemption to MGC ban on affiliate marketing deals

Earlier this month, the MGC voted to prohibit affiliate marketing companies from signing revenue-sharing agreements with sports betting operators.

The decision will take effect on Apr. 14, when an exemption from a ban on all affiliate marketing agreements will expire. That includes cost-per-acquisition (CPA) and revenue-sharing contracts related to legal sports betting in the state.

The commission members, led by chair Cathy Judd-Stein, approved this exemption which will be in effect until late April. Earlier this week, the commission voted 5-0 in favor of language in regulation 256.01 that would allow CPA affiliate activity. And prohibit revenue sharing in Massachusetts.

The MGC also completed processes regarding the 1-800 number for problem gambling and updated Massachusetts gambling addiction resources.

What were the Attorney General’s office requirements?

Current regulations ban advertising that contains “images, symbols, celebrity or entertainer endorsements or language designed to appeal primarily to individuals younger than 21 years of age.”

According to the editorial in The Boston Globe, AG’s office lawyers sent a letter to the MGC on Mar. 21, stating specific requirements:

“At minimum, safe and responsible gaming means that the betting experience must be fairly and accurately described, marketed and promoted.”

AG’s office is also proposing to draft regulatory language further limiting what it describes as “targeted marketing, harmful promotions and platform design choices that could deepen addiction or encourage risky behavior.”

To be more precise, the language proposed by the AG is asking the MGC to:

  • Enforce stronger ID-authentication requirements to ensure bettors are 21+
  • Restrict advertising to young people on social media and channels like YouTube TV and Hulu.
  • Ban the use of app or platform design elements that extend use or encourage “risky behavior”
  • Forbid sports betting operators from using the extensive personal information they collect to target users via more advertising and push alerts.

The Attorney General’s office also proposed banning certain promotional offers. Furthermore, the AG office requires these offers to be submitted to the gaming commission for review and approval. Apart from banning referral bonuses, the AG wanted to stop operators from paying sportscasters or others who claim to be “experts” providing gambling advice.

Massachusetts responsible gambling messaging specifics

So far, 30 affiliates have applied to operate in Massachusetts, while only five state they had or would pursue revenue-sharing models.

For now, sports betting operators can distribute ads as long as they include a warning about gambling addiction. Every ad must also list the state’s 24/7 hotline (www.mahelpline.org/problemgambling) for addiction treatment, 1-800-327-5050.

Along with the 1-800 number, Massachusetts gambling advertisers must embed the GameSense logo on all commercials, with access to certified professionals for customers. All ads must also feature the phrase “Play it Smart from the Start.” 

Photo by PlayUSA
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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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