Advertising Restrictions A Hot Topic At Maine regulatory Hearing

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Advertising Restrictions A Hot Topic At Maine regulatory Hearing
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Maine is progressing toward its sports betting launch. The state is sorting out the final details, and it has become clear that no one is happy with Maine’s proposed advertisement restrictions.

In a public hearing hosted by the Maine Gambling Control Unit on Jan. 31, the proposed rules limiting sports betting ads to in-game, only on the network it’s being televised, and without any mention of bonuses were picked apart. 

Broadcaster Opposition

Tom Moore, president and CEO of the Maine Association of Broadcasters, said the rule jeopardizes existing agreements between local stations and networks and cited First Amendment concerns.

“The proposed advertising restrictions single out advertising on television, which is unreasonable and inequitable because they do not apply to competing media, including online media,” Moore said, citing a 20-year-old case, Greater New Orleans Broadcasting Association vs. U.S., which found a federal law prohibiting casino advertising could not be enforced in states with legal casino gambling. 

"It's a legal activity, and as long as the advertising is truthful and not misleading, then it's protected by the First Amendment," Moore told the MGCU. “It would be a mistake in our view to delay implementation with legal battles over regulations that would almost certainly not hold up in court.”

The same First Amendment concerns and the capacity to enforce local broadcast restrictions on national broadcasts led to the Massachusetts legislature stripping similar regulations from its sports betting bill. 

Tribal Concerns

William Nicholas Sr., Chief of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, called advertising the key to success, especially when the business doesn’t have a retail location or a tangible product. 

The restrictions “would place absurd limits on the ability of our business to market itself,” Nicholas said, “These limits will hamper our ability to generate revenue, which will, in turn, hamper tax income to the state.”

Maine Sports Betting 

Maine legalized retail and mobile sports betting in May 2022. Unlike some other locales, the state has taken its time to craft its sports betting rules and create a licensing process. The earliest the state is expected to launch is in the summer of 2023, but a launch in late-2023 or even early 2024 isn’t out of the question.

The state could see as many as four online sportsbooks operated by the state’s tribes and up to 10 retail betting locations. Tribes are allowed a single mobile sports betting skin. 

Maine’s tribes do not operate casinos, so they will need to partner with a sports betting provider and will be mobile-only operators. That explains Nicholas’s concerns about marketing. 

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