‘Risk free’: The phrase you won’t hear anymore in sports betting ads

After the Supreme Court legalized sports wagering in any state willing to host it, the number of commercials trying to convince consumers to download their apps skyrocketed. And as the different companies battled for market share, the promotions, as well as their promises, have intensified.

But this week, the American Gaming Association, whose members make up more than 90% of the sports betting market share right now, updated their marketing guidelines. In particular, the one term you won’t hear anymore is “risk free.”

“The code also contains language that prohibits any guarantee of a win,” said Casey Clark, who’s with the American Gaming Association. “Promotions are still part of how we’re migrating American sports bettors out of the pervasive, predatory, illegal marketplace … This doesn’t prohibit promotions. It does prohibit the use of ‘risk free’ language.”

The new guidelines also clarify that no message “should suggest … success is guaranteed” and that players should not be encouraged to chase their losses or suggest that sports betting can help solve financial problems.

The new marketing guidelines also aim to ensure that marketing clearly states that sports betting is only for people over 21 years of age, which means it’s no longer acceptable for companies to partner up with colleges or universities. However, the handful of schools nationwide with an existing partnership, including the University of Maryland, will be grandfathered in.

“But it does prohibit future partnerships from being entered into,” Clark said. “We have to make sure that the right kind of protections are in place, and as we see the market mature and evolve, we want to mature and evolve with it.”

This updates the standards first set in 2019.

“What we’ve seen since we developed the code, and these new updates are no different, is these are widely accepted by anyone doing business in the U.S.,” Clark said. “These are standard practices that we’ve set that are now in regulation in a number of markets, so it’s really table stakes for anybody who wants to be in the sports betting business in America.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling addiction, call the National Council on Problem Gambling at 800-522-4700.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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