AGA Says Americans Prefer Legal Online Sportsbooks

Darrell Henderson #27 of the Los Angeles Rams and Logan Wilson #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals. Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP

The volume of legal sports betting in the United States has been staggering and it is not expected to slow down anytime soon. And as more states get into the game, the faster the industry is expected to grow. Based on the numbers, Americans are growing increasingly comfortable with domestic licensed sportsbooks.  

Advertising Overload 

There has been growing concern that the volume of advertising by sports betting operators has crossed the line. “Enough is enough” is what some legislators are beginning to grumble but the American Gaming Association has a different take on what is still a nascent industry in the United States. 

Bill Miller, American Gaming Association President, commented on what he believes is a non-issue. “Getting sports betting right is also about moving customers away from the predatory bookies and offshore websites and into the protections of the safe and legal market.  

“Look at New York and Louisiana (where online sports betting launched just prior to the Super Bowl). Does anybody reasonably think that millions of people just decided to try out sports betting for the first time last month? Of course not. Americans have been betting on sports as long as there have been sports to bet on. They haven’t had the legal opportunity to do it before.” 

But legislators like Colorado House Speaker Alec Garnett, a proponent of sports betting, said, “I thought that the industry or the market itself would start to regulate itself. It clearly hasn’t. 

“Every legislator should be able to say that sometimes there are unintended consequences and you have to take responsibility for them and clean them up and that’s what I’m doing.” 

Garnett elaborated, “We’ve done it (restricted advertising) with marijuana, we’ve done it with tobacco, we’ve done it to certain degrees with alcohol,” he said. “So, we need to be smart about going about this.” 

“You can limit how they talk to the people across the state both in online advertising, on billboards, and on TV. You can try to limit who they are speaking to and what populations they’re trying to address.” 

Strictly Legal 

The AGA’s Miller believes educating consumers about the licensed sportsbooks will help diminish the 20-year head start that the offshore industry enjoys. He also feels the federal government could do more to eradicate the presence of offshore books in the United States that siphons money away from the legal operators, and thus the states that benefit from the tax revenue it generates.  

“And our research also shows that the majority of Americans have a favorable view of those sportsbook advertisings,” Miller said. “And our ads are reaching the right audiences. And while it may seem the ads are everywhere, sports betting really only made up 1% of total ads last year and no sportsbook has been a top advertiser since the beginning of the NFL season.  

“Of course, there will be spikes around big events, like the Super Bowl, March Madness or new-market launches but (the advertising) serves an important purpose in drawing consumers from the illegal market to the legal market.” 

According to the AGA’s data, legal sportsbooks are searched 10 times more often than the biggest offshore operator. The legal online sportsbooks understand that getting early adopters is critical and many Americans that will sign up for their first sports betting account will prefer one with the blessing of the government rather than one that could be construed as an outlaw brand, where moving money using a conventional method can be difficult.  

The political battle between what is enough and what is too much regarding online sports betting advertising will continue to heat up if the operators don’t cool it down. But now that the Super Bowl is behind us and once March Madness is over, the flurry of sports betting advertising will drop markedly as those are the industry’s two busiest times of the year. And maybe then the advertising debate will dissipate…until next year.