You know that old dis, the “you’re playing checkers and I’m playing chess” thing? Where I demonstrate my wide-ranging mental acuity while you wallow in your abject stupidity?
Yeah, well, this isn’t one of those stories. This is a story of … well, forget chess, never mind checkers. This is a game of everyone playing tic-tac-toe.
The latest? It comes from the socialist-sounding Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising, a consortium consisting of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, WNBA, MLS, and NASCAR, along with NBC and FOX.
And what it is is … well, a better name for their group might be “The Coalition to Not Kill Our Golden Goose, Please.”
A group of professional sports leagues and media outlets have formed a coalition that aims to ensure a responsible approach to sports betting advertising, which has increased dramatically over the past five years and caught the attention of politicians.https://t.co/PCdt7zNRIU
— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) April 19, 2023
After all, these leagues — some more than others; looking at you, NFL — are raking in Succession-level amounts of money from their various deals with sportsbooks. A 2018 study from the American Gaming Association (AGA) put the number north of $4 billion a year, and that’s just for the “big four” sports. Clearly, there is gold in dem dar parlay hills, and the sports leagues — after decades of tsk-tsk-ing the idea of legalized sports betting — have wasted no time in wetting their beaks to the point of saturation.
All good things …
And all was going along just fine until The New York Times dropped its hit piece against the industry last November. (Did you know lobbyists are hired by private enterprise to swing politicians to their side? Sacre bleu!)
Anyway, post-NYT punch, politicians from the state and federal level have been busy trying to pick off the lowest-hanging fruit, namely the proliferation of sports betting advertising.
While some states are being downright silly in their machinations (legislation proposed in Minnesota would make sure there are no ads in taxi cabs, for some godforsaken reason), one federal bill has forced a bit of a reckoning in the industry.
Of course, I’m talking about U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko’s proposed legislation, which is seeking to ban sportsbook advertising, full stop.
New York Congressman Paul Tonko has introduced the Betting on our Future Act, which would ban online and electronic advertising of sports gambling. The industry is hitting back. https://t.co/vbxQtn3QId
— WAMC News (@WAMCNews) February 28, 2023
Granted, while the odds of Tonko’s bill, as is, gaining steam and making its way to law is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of +100000, the existential threat of it has forced the industry — and its assorted compatriots — to sit up and take notice.
In tic-tac-toe terms, the politicians have been busy dropping an “X” in the center square, and now the sports leagues (and the AGA) are putting their “O’s” in the corners.
After the state politicians and Tonko made their moves, the AGA followed up a few weeks back, updating its marketing standards.
Now, the sports leagues and their broadcast partners have made their own move, issuing six “core principles” concerning sports betting advertising that are needed to “to implement and maintain consumer protection policies.”
Six principles, unite!
The six principles are about as vague and toothless as one might imagine, but sure do look good when trying to demonstrate to politicians how Seriously We Are Taking This Issue.
The principles, then, along with my take:
1) Sports betting should only be marketed to adults of a legal age: Well, yeah. Makes sense. I mean, it’s not like FanDuel was advertising during Saturday morning episodes of Scooby-Doo, but yes. Good one. Don’t tempt kids. Bravo.
2) Don’t promote irresponsible or excessive gambling: Again, kudos, but also again, it’s not like DraftKings ads featured pasty, overweight men with grease stains on their V-neck undershirts thumbing “bet the mortgage” on a 16-team parlay on their iPhone 5.
3) Sports betting advertisements should not be misleading: Honestly, I could write a billion words on this, as “misleading” is in the eye of the beholder. What’s the definition of “misleading”? Adam Levitan of Establish the Run came up with a clever point: Is it misleading to try and entice people to come bet with your sportsbook if you’re just going to cut them off at the knees later on?
Interesting story here. One item is: Sports betting advertisements should not be misleading.
Wonder if that will include "Come win big at XYZ sportsbook!!" Public doesn't realize that if you do actually win at some books, your account is dead. https://t.co/jLp1PmIu5O
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) April 19, 2023
4) Sports betting ads should be in good taste: Well, now, talk about “eye of the beholder” stuff. Who decides what’s “good taste”? I feel like this is code for “Hey, PointsBet, maybe we should slow down on the Paige Spiranac stuff,” but what do I know.
5) Publishers should have internal reviews of sports betting ads: Were they not checking out the ads before they ran them prior to forming this coalition? I find that difficult to believe.
6) Publishers should review complaints about sports betting advertising: Yeah, fine, OK, I’m suuuuuuuure a crack team of reviewers is awaiting its marching orders at the networks.
Truly, these are the dopiest “principles” anyone could’ve come up with. It’s all lip service. They could’ve added a seventh, something like, “We won’t compare sports betting to religious experiences,” and an eighth like, “We won’t run any commercials that make people think betting on sports will regrow their hair.”
This is all so dumb. Don’t believe me? Take almost any other product that brings so much of an ounce of joy with a teense of risk and read through those principles again. Insert “soda” instead of “sports betting,” and it’s the same. Insert “fast food,” “beer,” “potato chips,” “sports cars.” This list can go on for quite some time.
But you know what? In this high-stakes game of tic-tac-toe, you don’t do something stupid. So if the politicians are acting insane when it comes to sports betting advertising, then the industry — and all its assorted remoras — has to act equally insane and issue inane statements and create silly coalitions in an effort to make sure this game of tic-tac-toe ends the way every single game of tic-tac-toe should end: in a stalemate.