Sports betting operators can no longer use the phrase “risk-free” in their marketing language used on platforms operated by the NBA and its franchises, according to a report from Sports Business Journal.
“We believe it’s a problematic term from a responsible gaming and a problem gaming standpoint,” Scott Kaufman-Ross, the NBA senior vice president who heads gaming and new business ventures, told SBJ. “It’s important that we be clear with our fans that sports betting carries inherent risk. The notion that anything in this area is risk-free runs counter to the key messaging and education around sports betting. We just feel it’s the right move for us.”
DraftKings and FanDuel, official sports betting partners of the NBA, are among the operators that won’t be allowed to use the language. Other sportsbooks that advertise on league platforms like NBA TV, NBA.com, and team websites and social feeds are also expected to follow the new guideline.
The league also expects “risk-free” phrasing to be out of team and league broadcasts by next season.
Shift already afoot
The NBA’s stance falls in line with what operators are already doing.
Major operators began transitioning away from the language in the second half of 2022, with many completely halting the use of “risk-free” in their marketing materials in 2023. FanDuel was among the first national operators to shift away from the language, adopting “no-sweat bet” instead of “risk-free bet” in the summer of 2022.
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Other mobile sportsbooks — like Barstool Sportsbook, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, and PointsBet — told Sports Handle they’ve either fully transitioned away from “risk-free” language or are in the process.
The pressure on sportsbooks that ran promotions featuring the phrase “risk-free bet” ramped up in late 2022 and early 2023, considering many of those promos actually required bettors to risk a financial stake. Regulators in Ohio and Massachusetts each adopted rules to prohibit the use of “risk-free” when the promotion required a user to wager a financial stake of their own. The Ohio Casino Control Commission even fined a few operators that failed to follow its guidelines.
Misleading “free bet” language has long irked responsible gambling advocates, who wanted to see sportsbooks change the phrasing to be more clear and accurate. It appears operators are now listening, en masse.