AGA Boss Describes US Sports Betting Ads Blitz as ‘Unsustainable Arms Race’

  • Miller’s comments came at the SBC Summit North America sports betting conference
  • Industry heads fear for the US betting industry if rival brands continue their media blitz
  • The AGA president asked if the number of sports ads saturating the media was “too much?”
  • PointsBet’s ad strategy is not to “spend irrationally but be aggressive and disciplined”
  • Caesars, IGT, and New York Jets execs have warned of marketing regulation seen in the UK
NFL ball on ice/US flag background
The rise of sports betting ads since the start of this year’s NFL has led to industry heads and the AGA’s Bill Miller calling for restraint in the “unsustainable arms race.” [Image:]

Battle of attrition

As US sportsbooks continue their battle of attrition for market share, American Gaming Association (AGA) president Bill Miller has called the escalation of sports betting ads “an unsustainable arms race.”

Miller’s comments came on Wednesday during the SBC Summit North America sports betting conference.

On Twitter, sports betting industry analyst Alfonso Straffon shared news of industry heads voicing concern over the growing number of ads:

Miller led the chorus of warnings regarding what could lie in wait for the US sports betting industry if rival brands continue their media saturation. Industry members such as Miller fear that if operators take it too far, regulators and lawmakers may intervene as they have in the UK and Europe.

All-out war

Speaking at the SBC event on Wednesday, Miller posited a reason for the increase in sports wagering advertising since the NFL season began in September. He said the nation’s sportsbooks “are acquiring customers, often from the illegal market.”

Acknowledging that sportsbooks are currently operating with a “long leash” in the US in regards to limits on advertising, Miller asked: “Is it annoying? Is it too much?”

Since this year’s NFL season began, US sportsbooks have gone all-out for market share via aggressive marketing strategies. Live sports dominated ad impressions and primetime broadcast spend incresed 16% compared to 2019. Last month, market tracker reported that between September 9 and October 17, rival sportsbooks Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel each spent over $15m on US advertising.

On Thurday, the Associated Press quoted PointsBet’s chief marketing officer Kyle Christensen who labeled ad spend necessary to retain existing customers and attract new ones. Christensen said PointsBet’s philosophy is not to “spend irrationally but be aggressive and disciplined.” He said this thinking would dictate its future spending on marketing.

On Thursday, PointsBet flighted two new ads with recently retired QB Drew Brees. The ads encouraged viewers to live their “bet life”:

Also commenting on marketing, director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, Johnny Avello, said his firm’s current level of advertising is doing its job. “I was at the (train) terminal in Hoboken yesterday and I saw DraftKings on every kiosk and every wall […] I think it’s effective. It works,” he explained.

Calls for restraint

While the two DraftKings and PointsBet execs have expressed satisfaction with their aggressive marketing strategies, other industry minds are far more circumspect.

not something that lends itself to self-regulation.”

President of sports betting for gambling technology firm IGT, Joe Asher, warned of “a backlash on the advertising going on today, and the excessive amount of it going on.” Former CEO of the US arm of UK-based gambling giant William Hill posited that advertising is “not something that lends itself to self-regulation.”

“I do worry about when we get to that phase,” Asher ruminated.

Senior VP of sports for Caesars Digital, Kenneth Fuchs said “It’s not about shouting at people: ‘Free money! Free money! Free money!’ That’s what wears people down.” Fuchs also cautioned that: “You do have to draw lessons from the UK […] you have to self-regulate.”

Warnings from the UK

New York Jets VP of business development and ventures, Jeff Fernandez, concurred with Fuchs. The Jets exec said the sports betting industry and its major league sports partners need “to make sure we don’t have to go to a whistle-to-whistle ban like what happens in the UK.”

Sports betting sponsorship has drawn heavy fire from the industry’s critics in the UK. In 2018, sportsbooks voluntarily approved a ‘whistle to whistle’ ban on advertising during sporting events. According to a September report from Sportsmail, British MPs are even planning to introduce a ban on front-of-shirt sponsorships in soccer.

The move will fall under the UK government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005, with the publishing of the proposal slated for the end of 2021 or early next year.

So far, the US is a regulation-free zone for sports betting ads, but the market is one of the world’s largest and expanding at a phenomenal clip. Last month, VegasSlotsOnline News warned that sportsbooks should heed warnings from across the Pond to stay on the sunnier side of popular opinion.

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