Pennsylvania Sportsbooks Get Tighter Advertising Restrictions on Risk-Free & Free Bet Terminology via Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board

Pennsylvania sports betting regulators are tightening the reigns on operators, prohibiting legal sportsbook advertising from including any terms like “risk-free” or “free” bet.

Licensed Pennsylvania sportsbooks will now be subject to fines and other penalties for violating this regulation going forward.

Pennsylvania announces tighter sports betting rules

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced the adjustment during a meeting last week.

Going forward, the term “free bet” will no longer be permitted within sportsbook advertising. Moreover, Pennsylvania sportsbooks will face penalties and fines for any future marketing material that includes such language.

Regulators argue that the term “free bet” is misleading since no free money is transferred in the traditional sense of the word. Moreover, such advertising implies there’s no level of risk involved. The very definition of gambling, however, suggests that there is always inherent risk involved in the activity.

The more appropriate term for these offers, regulators say, is something more like “bonus bets” or “second-chance bets”.

The issue with “risk-free” promos

According to Pennsylvania sports betting regulators, there’s no such thing as “free” or “risk-free” when it comes to gambling. To qualify for these promos in the first place, new users are often required to make an initial deposit into their account.

If the first bet hits, everything continues as usual, and you receive any winnings.

If the bet loses, sportsbooks provide an account refund in the form of one or more bonus bets. Those bonus bets aren’t awarded as real money, though.

The promos generally include certain play-through restrictions. Users have to make at least one winning wager with the bonus bet in order to turn it into withdrawable cash. And oftentimes, only the winning sum is won, not the original bonus bet amount.

These terms are all laid out clearly in the fine print. But let’s be honest – who really reads the full terms and conditions?

Without reading these details, bettors assume they’ll receive a cash refund if their bet loses.

Sportsbooks see advertising crackdowns nationwide

This new rule is one of a handful popping up around the nation in an attempt to combat gambling addiction and enhance responsible gambling practices.

Massachusetts sports betting regulators have recently considered similar advertising adjustments.

In Pennsylvania specifically, regulators worry such loose terminology sets a poor precedent for the legal industry. Regulators hope this rule will clarify things for the public and enhance responsible gambling efforts simultaneously.

Future sportsbook advertising encourages candid creativity

Going forward, this regulation likely won’t have a major impact on advertising in the Keystone State. Sportsbook bonuses and promotions will stay the same overall. It’s the language surrounding these promos that will see some adjustments.

Operators will face additional crackdowns as sports betting continues to expand in Pennsylvania and nationwide. Fortunately for bettors, that means sportsbooks will have to come up with more creative advertising strategies in order to traverse these tighter regulations.

Alec Cunningham is a lead writer and analyst for She has covered countless online sports betting and casino legislation topics and now specializes in responsible gambling and gambling addiction recovery. In 2022, she served as a panelist at the All-American Sports Betting Summit, discussing the ever-evolving role of women in the gambling industry. As a college athlete, Alec Cunningham played Division II golf at Tusculum University. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Professional Writing. After working in the music industry as a concert promoter, tour manager and artist developer, she returned to her love of written word in 2020. Since then, Cunningham's love of sports has led her to become a responsible gambling advocate.

Hot Betting News Stories