BetMGM’s “prominent” display
It was barely news. BetMGM dropped a presser about how it is going to make the “Gamble Responsibly” wording on its ads and apps bigger. The operator plans to make the wording pop on its digital and social platforms, billboards, and on-property signage. So far so anodyne.
Upon further reading, it became apparent the company is doing all this for March 1, the start of Problem Gambling Awareness Month. There it is: the punchline.
That BetMGM is pretending to care so much about problem gamblers got a smirk out of me, particularly considering the operator’s recent major fine for misleading marketing. The reality that the best the million-dollar market boffins at BetMGM could pitch was a “bigger font” for its responsible gambling messaging, really made that smirk stick.
You have to commit
They did it so earnestly. Those marketing boffins even wrote copy for Adam Greenblatt, the company CEO. In it, Greenblatt says that BetMGM is “committed to leading the industry in promoting responsible gaming,” deeming the move “unprecedented” and “a significant commitment to showcasing responsible gaming in [BetMGM’s] advertising.”
It probably serves more as a message to the regulators
It is doubtful that BetMGM is hoping to convince the public with this campaign. It probably serves more as a message to the regulators. Legislators are only just beginning to catch up with the online gaming boom of the last few years. Just in the last week, New York State is targeting gambling advertisements with new measures and New York City sued Caesars Entertainment over using the term “risk-free” to describe one of its promotions. BetMGM was also one of three operators to receive $150,000 fines in Ohio for misleading marketing in January.
We all understand there is a dark side to the gambling industry and the exploitation of gambling addicts by some firms within the sector is one of the darkest parts of it. Capitalism doesn’t brook much truck with ethical assessments though and sometimes from a corporate point of view, a problem gambler is just a repeat customer.
So when BetMGM—a company with a literal predator as its logo—says it cares, the statement can feel a tad disingenuous.
A campaign as nakedly cynical as BetMGM’s should be good for a bit of moral fury. So why is it that I’m just smirking?
An unconvincing deception creates dramatic irony
Perhaps its dramatic irony. That’s the term for when the audience knows more than the character. Hypocrisy is one example of this, blind to the log in their own eye, a character snipes at the splinter in another’s. An unconvincing deception creates dramatic irony too—the deceiver believes they are getting away with it, while the audience knows that no one on stage is fooled by the trick.
Then again, there’s an old joke about politicians in which complaining voters claim that they don’t mind being lied to, but they resent being expected to believe.
Perhaps this campaign is funny rather than objectionable because there’s just no way anyone could be expected to believe it. It is, to quote the great Benoit Blanc, just dumb.
If you or someone close to you is affected by problem gambling, you can contact the National Problem Gambling Helpline in the US.
There are also similar charities and government sponsored schemes that provide similar services worldwide.