As the online gambling industry in the United States continues to grow, responsibility has to play a major role in that growth. A trade association for US online gambling companies and their suppliers, the iDevelopment and Economic Association or iDEA, has formalized a set of guidelines for its members to use in formulating their marketing of gaming products.
The code builds on five main principles that aim to not only protect consumers in the US but ensure a prosperous future for iDEA members. iDEA’s members realize that when gambling is advertised irresponsibly, no one wins.
iDEA releases new responsible advertising guidelines
Online gambling is among the most heavily regulated industries in the US. For that reason, the first of the five points of iDEA’s code focuses on that regulation. According to a news release from iDEA, the five main emphases of the code are:
- Complying with legal requirements relating to sports wagering and online gaming advertising
- Promoting sports betting and online gaming only to those over the age of 21 (unless state law is 18 years and older)
- Limiting college and university advertising
- Promoting responsible gaming
- Implementing and monitoring code compliance
The release states that iDEA’s Responsible Advertising Committee will review the code on an annual basis, making updates if necessary. In addition to updating their training for employees with the code’s precepts, members have committed to policing each other on compliance with this code.
The code mostly falls in line with recent regulatory changes in the US gambling industry. It could help gambling companies head off tighter restrictions in the future as well.
Code limits language, location of advertising
Among the tenets of the iDEA’s full code beyond the five main principles are guidelines on verbiage of marketing materials for gambling. For example, the code says that “advertisements should not use ‘risk-free’ language.”
That issue has been of recent interest to many stakeholders. The NBA banned the use of the term in all gaming ads on its media in February. In March, Caesars became a defendant in a lawsuit over its use of the term in its advertising for its online sportsbook in New York.
Regulators in Pennsylvania tightened their rules to prohibit similar phrases. In response to these measures and others, the American Gaming Association also directed its members to stop using the phrase in their marketing. The AGA is another trade association for gambling companies.
Another issue the code confronts is the advertising of online gambling on college campuses and via university-related media. The iDEA code says its members “commit to not advertising on college or university campuses, except where permitted (e.g., alumni communications). This restriction includes school radio or TV stations, but does not apply to alumni networks.”
This part of the code could have the most immediate impact. Some of these relationships still exist although they have been falling out of favor. For example, Caesars Entertainment still has a partnership with LSU and Michigan State. Caesars is not an iDEA member, however.
Whether iDEA’s guideline means such partnerships will become even more passé is unclear. There is one facet of the code the guidelines do not explicitly address. For that reason, regulators and lawmakers might fill that role.
Code does not restrict frequency of ads
Another issue that has become a topic of discussion in terms of online gambling marketing is the frequency of ads. Legislators and regulators have been active on the issue to an extent.
US Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) has submitted a bill that would ban sportsbook advertisements on all FCC-regulated mediums. That would include most print publications, radio and television. The FCC does not regulate most content that originates on the Internet, however.
Similarly, the proposed regulations for forthcoming legal sports betting in Maine contain restrictions on television ads. Under the tentative rules, sportsbooks can only advertise their services “during an event and only on the channel that the event is being telecast” on.
To an extent, this issue has seen some natural resolution. Several gambling companies have cut back on their marketing budgets as a way to control costs. There are other online gambling entities that have not done so, however.
This code does not ask them to consider the extent to which they are advertising themselves in explicit language. A broader statement that “sports betting and online gaming must be marketed in a responsible manner” could cover that facet, though.
It might be in the best interest of iDEA members to expand that statement in this way. If they don’t regulate themselves, someone else could do it for them. Part of the purpose of this code is to prevent that situation.