On Thursday night, the National Football League (NFL) debuted its first sports betting public service announcement during the Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints game. The 30-second PSA featured former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci vocalizing the NFL’s core message on responsible gaming: “Stick to your game plan. Always bet responsibly.” The NFL plans to air this PSA once during each game broadcast, although the frequency could vary and new versions are expected to be introduced ahead of the start of the playoffs.
NFL Partnership with the National Council on Problem Gambling
The NFL has maintained its commitment to keeping consumers safe while using sports betting as a vessel to boost engagement and viewership. In-game PSAs are just one part of the initiative to build a safer sports betting ecosystem in the United States, and on October 20, the NFL announced an extensive league-wide responsible gambling program in partnership with the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). The NFL has committed $6.2 million in grants to the NCPG, representing the largest grant ever for the nonprofit organization that was founded in 1972. As part of the partnership, the NFL is launching ResponsiblePlay.org, a website where sports bettors can learn about responsible gambling and problem gambling.
Sportsbooks Contemplate Future of Advertising
If you noticed a dissonance between the NFL’s responsible gaming PSA mixed in between a flood of commercials from sportsbooks, you weren’t the only one. Sportsbooks have begun to express concern over potential backlash over the exponentially increasing volume of advertising. The NFL currently allows at most six sports betting ads per game, less than some other industries are allowed, but viewers are more sensitive to betting advertising. No sportsbook currently ranks inside the top ten biggest spenders on NFL advertising, but industry leaders have still discussed the need for self-regulation.
At the SBC Summit North America this week, many industry leaders discussed this issue. Brad Miller, president of the American Gaming Association, called the current level of sports betting advertising an “unsustainable arms race.” Joe Asher, president of sports betting for International Game Technology, warned of potential “backlash” on the “excessive amount” of advertising. Many sportsbooks are exploring future options for alternative streaming options with gambling-centric auxiliary feeds. FuboTV, for example, is leading the charge with innovative integration between sports betting and streaming.
Potential Downsides to Advertising
As of now, sportsbooks are mostly free to handle their advertising during broadcasts, in stadiums, and through other activations, as they see fit. However, that is not the case in Europe, which has a much more developed sports betting industry. In the U.K., teams are subject to a “whistle-to-whistle” ban on sports betting advertising during broadcasts. In Italy, no gambling property is permitted to advertise its products. In Spain, sportsbooks are prohibited from advertising on jerseys or in stadium names, and gaming ads during broadcasts are limited to the hours of 1 AM to 5 AM.
Sportsbooks would certainly like to sustain a free-market approach to sports betting advertising, but there may be increased incentive for the government to step in should problem gaming become a major concern. In that sense, sports betting properties are as incentivized as anyone to push responsible gaming initiatives. The NFL’s public service announcements will continue to be a part of broadcasts moving forward, and we should expect the league to continue to find innovative ways to leverage its partnership with the NCPG and protect its consumers.