AGA Overhauls Responsible Marketing Code As Regulatory Pressure Increases

AGA Overhauls Responsible Marketing Code As Regulatory Pressure Increases
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With regulators in several states cracking down on marketing by legal sports betting operators, the American Gaming Association (AGA) is trying to get ahead of regulatory action. 

In a recent press release, the AGA announced several significant changes to its Responsible Marketing Code. 

“Advertising plays an essential role in migrating consumers away from predatory illegal sportsbooks and into the protections of the legal, regulated market while providing responsible gaming resources,” AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said. “The AGA and our members are committed to building a sustainable marketplace that protects vulnerable populations and gives consumers the knowledge and tools to keep sports betting fun for adults.” 

The new updates take aim at several marketing strategies regulators have been targeting: 

  • Prohibiting college partnerships that promote, market or advertise sports wagering activity (other than to alumni networks or content focused on RG initiatives or problem gambling awareness).
  • Prohibiting sportsbook NIL deals for amateur and college athletes.
  • Adding age restrictions (21+) for any individual featured in sports betting advertising.
  • Changing all references to the “legal age of wagering” to 21-plus.
  • Banning all use of “risk-free” in advertising.
  • Formalizing an annual process for reviewing and updating the Code.

Per the AGA, the new standards go into effect immediately, with a grace period for existing or deployed assets until July 1, 2023.

 Getting Ahead of the Storm

In a recent column, I posited that the toothpaste was out of the tube. My advice to the gambling industry was it needed to get itself to the table as quickly as possible to prevent regulatory overreach. The goal should be a unified voice, conceding obvious points, and offering new ideas that strengthen existing policies. 

The updated code makes two key concessions that were inevitable:

  • Getting sports betting off college campuses
  • Eliminating the use of “risk-free” in marketing

It also offers a new policy that likely was a bit off-the-radar: changing all references to the legal age of wagering to 21-plus. That is an interesting change, as several locales allow 18+ betting:

  • DC
  • Kentucky (active bill)
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont (active bill)
  • Washington state
  • Wyoming

Is it Enough?

The question is whether the AGA’s newly strengthened marketing policies go far enough for problem gambling advocates, lawmakers, and regulators. And is the response fast enough to stem the current hardline approach towards sports betting marketing? 

The AGA’s new policies could quell the uprising. Or it could be seen as blood in the water. 

The changes could also help ease any threats of federal action. Staving off Congress would be a massive win for the industry.