Pennsylvania Sports Betting Providers Required to Revise Advertising Wording

Pennsylvania sports betting operators have been asked to modify their advertising and marketing materials to omit certain words and phrases.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has mandated that licensed sportsbooks do not use terms such as “free bet,” “risk-free bet,” “free play,” or any other phrasing that implies that the sportsbook offer is without risk. The PGCB sent an email to its sports betting licensees last week informing them of the regulatory change.

The Executive Director of the PGCB, Kevin O’Toole, has requested that licensees revise the promotional terms and conditions, as well as all relevant advertising, to eliminate references to “free bet,” “risk-free bet,” “free play,” or any other similar language which implies that a promotional offer is free when it is not.

To better publicize such promotions, operators could refer to them as “bonus bets” or “second-chance bets.” Many sportsbooks that offer “free” bets normally come with a set of terms and conditions. Typically, customers must meet certain wagering requirements before they can withdraw their initial deposit as cash, thus making risk an inherent part of the offer.

This move is in line with other states that have taken similar action in response to grievances filed with state gaming regulators regarding sports betting advertisements that falsely imply that their promos are without risk.

US Rep. Paul Tonko (D-New York) has proposed a bill that would ban sports betting advertising on media regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Tonko has stated that he wants to “halt this dangerous practice and send a powerful message to the online sports betting advertisers.”

Despite the push to prohibit sports betting advertising, the American Gaming Association, along with other US gaming industry groups, believe efforts to restrict sportsbook advertising could infringe upon media companies’ constitutional rights.

Sportsbook and online casinos spent an estimated $1.8 billion on media ads last year, with a sizeable portion of that going towards local television broadcast networks. This has been seen as a positive for these networks, as the online gaming business is providing them with a continuous boost in states where gambling is legal.