At the risk of comparing apples and oranges, please note that each year, some 3 million souls lose their lives due to alcohol, according to the World Health Organization. And while there are no hard numbers that show how many people have committed suicide from betting on sports, I’m going to go out on the longest limb imaginable and say it’s less than 3 million a year.
So comparing the risks of alcohol to the risks of sports betting isn’t so much like comparing apples to oranges as it is comparing a loaded gun with a loaf of bread. They both can kill you, but one is significantly more likely to do so. (I mean, stick a whole loaf of Wonder bread in your mouth, you’re liable to choke. It happens.)
Now, to be clear, I’m the one doing the comparison here. I’m not saying others are comparing the dangers of alcohol to the dangers of sports betting. But it’s hard not to make this comparison when you see some of the nanny-state nonsense surrounding sports betting, specifically the mania involving politicians who are climbing over one another to take a crowbar to the sports betting industry’s knees.
Today’s nonsense? Politicians in Maine and Ontario have proposed advertising rules that would ban celebrities from pitching sportsbooks.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) wants to ban the use of athletes and celebrities who might appeal to kids in internet gambling advertisements. | @CBCToronto https://t.co/NtSwBwe12h
— CBC (@CBC) April 16, 2023
That’s right. No more Jamie Foxx for BetMGM — or Wayne Gretzky, Kevin Garnett, Jalen Rose, Marshawn Lynch, and Barry Sanders, for that matter.
No more J.B. Smoove, Halle Berry, or the Manning family for Caesars.
Ben Affleck, Shaquille O’Neal, and Melvin Gregg for WynnBet? Nuh-uh.
But what about booze?
Of course, there are zero politicians seeking to ban the likes of Mila Kunis from slinging Jim Beam.
Or George Clooney from pitching his own brand of tequila.
Or Post Malone selling Bud Light Seltzer (blech).
You get the point. And while Maine politicians go back and forth over their proposed rule, Ontario lawmakers don’t have that pesky First Amendment to deal with.
“This would be a lot harder to pull off without industry consent in the United States,” said John Holden, an associate professor who specializes in sports law and gambling policy at Oklahoma State University. “While I think the American Gaming Association could push guidelines around this, a law stating ‘no celebrities’ probably runs into First Amendment problems.”
But Holden does think lawmakers could have another avenue to limit celebrity endorsements.
“With that said, I think there is a possibility regulators or legislators could limit ads around the idea that the content can’t be marketed to appeal to children, which would probably mean you won’t see Blippi — I have young kids — pushing same-game parlays. But probably a no-go on simply saying ‘no celebrities,’ even for ads directed at adults.”
So Post Malone’s OK for beer ads, but no Blippi for betting. Seems reasonable.
Though after watching the above Blippi clip, I do have a hankering to get a little action down on my local 4H fair this summer. Anyone offering “best sheep in show” odds?
By the way, someone who actually knows a thing or two about problem gambling — like Keith Whyte of the National Council on Problem Gambling — had this to say a few weeks back when I asked him about advertising bans of any stripe: “To people spouting off on advertising bans, that’s not a serious solution.”
This has been Part 3,724 of my ongoing series in “politicians melting down over sports betting because it’s an easy target while they fail to do anything about actual problems.” If you missed any of the first 3,723 entries, fear not: They’re all pretty much the same damn thing.