AGA Clamps Down on Irresponsible Advertising With Sports Betting Marketing Code

  • New code of conduct was released during the AGA’s Responsible Gaming Education Week
  • Ads must feature a responsible gambling message, not promote reckless or excessive betting
  • The provisions cover traditional and digital media marketing and advertising activities
  • Protections for minors include prohibiting ads that appeal and are visible to underage audiences
  • Members of the public can submit ad complaints to the Code Compliance Review Board
hand-written text on transparent board reads code of conduct
The AGA has released a new code of conduct to combat irresponsible sports betting advertising. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Code compliance process kicks off

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has released a new code of conduct that aims to combat irresponsible advertising relating to sports betting products. The Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering launched on September 14 during the AGA’s Responsible Gaming Education Week.

The US gambling industry’s representative body announced the kickoff of its code compliance process in a tweet:

The new code states that marketing messages should not promote excessive or irresponsible participation in sports betting. It also calls for the inclusion of a responsible gambling message with every advert, as well as a toll-free telephone helpline number where practical. In addition, betting adverts may not contain suggestions of guaranteed financial, social, or personal success through sports betting. 

AGA members worked on the said code with the goal of setting “the industry standard” for both traditional and digital forms of advertising and marketing.

Protecting minors

The newly published marketing code starts off with the premise that: “Sports wagering is an entertainment activity that should be consumed only by responsible adults and marketed accordingly to that audience.” The rules introduced include protections for minors.

should be consumed only by responsible adults”

The code holds that gambling ads cannot feature any music, entertainers, or cartoon characters that mainly appeal to an underage audience. Moreover, the ads must not appear on social media platforms that predominantly target younger age groups.

The AGA states that sports wagering messages should not be licensed for use on games, toys, clothing, or game equipment that are mainly aimed at individuals below the legal betting age, nor should sportsbook operators advertise on university or college campuses and media.

Websites featuring sports betting advertising material should ensure the inclusion of a responsible gaming message. They are also required to link to responsible gaming information available online. Operators are to specify the legal betting age across their social media platforms and websites, in conjunction with the implementation of age affirmation mechanisms.

Overall, all advertising material “should adhere to contemporary standards of good taste.”

Implementing accountability

Each of the code’s rules applies to AGA members and non-members alike. The former will be responsible for offering training on code provisions to employees working in the marketing or advertising of sports betting products. The AGA will also train members and their staff in this regard on a biannual basis.

As well as implementing an in-house process to review their business’s compliance with the code, AGA members must also provide a copy of the code to all media buyers, third-party marketers, and advertising agencies that they work with.

putting consumers first”

AGA CEO and president Bill Miller said the Responsible Gaming Education Week was the perfect time to launch the new code of conduct, with everyone now being held accountable. “By adhering to this code, U.S. sports betting operators are putting consumers first”, he stated.

The AGA also launched a campaign promoting responsible sports betting in March. The Have a Game Plan, Bet Responsibly initiative aims to educate sports bettors about responsible betting practices.

Enforcing the code

As part of the rollout, the AGA has issued a complaint form which the public can use to flag any betting adverts they believe might violate the code of conduct. All complaints will be reviewed for relevance and completeness before these are flagged with the operator in question.

If the complainant wishes to seek a further review following communication with the offending company, they can refer the issue to the newly set-up Code Compliance Review Board. The individual may remain anonymous. The AGA will regularly publish summaries of all resolved complaints on its website.

Two independent co-chairs and five representative AGA members make up the review board, each serving three-year terms.

Joe Bertolone and Becky Harris are the initially appointed co-chairs. Bertolone is the UNLV International Center for Gaming Regulation’s executive director, while Harris is a distinguished fellow in gaming at the UNLV Gaming Institute. The five representatives are Laura McAllister Cox (VP of regulatory compliance and legal counsel at Rush Street Gaming), Stephen Martino (SVP and chief compliance officer at MGM Resorts International), Sharon Otterman (William Hill CMO), Paul Pellizzari (VP for global social responsibility at Hard Rock), and Chris Soriano (Penn National Gaming’s VP and chief compliance officer).