By Ken Reed

Sports gambling companies, like Fan Duel, Draft Kings, and Bet MGM, are increasingly promoting in-game wagering via mobile apps. They know in-game wagers are usually impulse bets because there isn’t time to give these types of wagers careful consideration.

These companies are sending push notifications to bettors encouraging in-game bets not only on point spreads but also prop bets like how many rebounds a certain player will get in a particular game.

Clinical psychologist Meredith K. Ginley, a gambling addiction specialist, says in-game wagering offers are strategically designed to trigger risky behavior in individuals predisposed to such tendencies.

Sports gambling advertising is now a $2 billion industry promoting a $280 billion sports gambling marketplace. The annual gambling total is growing by an average of 22% year over year. The number of problem gamblers is also rising. The Gambling Helpline Network received 270,000 calls in 2022, a 45% increase from the previous year.

The sports gambling ads are unavoidable for sports fans. In addition to airing during games, they run during pre-game and post-game shows. And these adds are almost always promoting “special deals” like free bets — which actually aren’t free at all, a deposit is required. The ads often feature celebrities and famous former athletes.

There are now 38 states that allow some form of legal sports gambling. More states have sports gambling proposals making their way through state legislatures. It’s clear that legalized sports gambling is here to stay. That said, there are many things that can be done to better monitor, regulate and police legalized sports gambling.

One place to look for ideas in this regard is countries that have had legal sports gambling longer than the U.S. has. There are key learnings to be had via this effort.

Italy banned completely gambling advertisements in 2018. Yes, First Amendment protections might make that harder to do in the U.S., but cigarette marketing in the United States has been banned for years. Sports gambling legislation could be modeled after the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act.

Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ban on casino advertising in Puerto Rico. The Court found that reducing gambling demand constitutes a legitimate government interest.

If not an outright ban on sports gambling advertising like Italy did, the FCC could ban celebrities and athletes from endorsing sports gambling. “Free bet” and similar promotions could be banned. Ads in stadiums and arenas where pro and college games are played could also be disallowed.

Another possible move would be for the FCC to ban networks and their game announcers from talking about sports gambling during broadcasts of sporting events.

These ideas are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many possibilities for getting a better handle on sports gambling in this country. Given where we are right now, it’s clear that multiple actions need to be taken. Allowing sports gambling marketing to proliferate unabated in a Wild Wild West environment isn’t a healthy or sensible option moving forward.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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