New report from UNLV International Gaming Institute argues that the U.S. should rethink how advertisers, media promote online sports betting

Apr. 15, 2021

April 15, 2021 – As legal online sports wagering begins to surge in the U.S. – fueled in part by the need for additional revenue generation opportunities amidst the  COVID-19 pandemic – researchers say that now is the time to tackle tough questions about how the industry is promoted by advertisers, media, and the industry itself.  

Online sports wagering is currently legal in 14 states – Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Iowa, Oregon, Indiana, New Hampshire, Illinois, Michigan, Colorado, the District of Columbia, and Tennessee – and is projected to grow even more in the next few years.

Wyoming is the next state positioned to have mobile sports wagering options – potentially as early as late 2021 – with a mobile-only sports betting bill signed into law on April 5, 2021. And as quickly as lawmakers can draft the legislation, operators are advertising new and exciting ways to bet on sports.

In a new report penned by UNLV International Gaming Institute (IGI) and sponsored by sports betting company Entain, the authors describe the rapid expansion of sports wagering in the U.S. and emphasize the important role that advertisers and the media play in promoting responsible wagering.

According to Jennifer Shatley, one of the report's lead authors, "In many jurisdictions, sports wagering advertising has led to a backlash and/or a pumping of brakes -- either by the government, regulatory officials, or by the industry itself. This report provides recommendations for a holistic framework to promote sports wagering in a responsible manner from the start in order to help avoid these pitfalls in the U.S."   

So, what steps can be taken to ensure a responsible, successful future for the advertising of sports betting in the U.S.?

Key insight No. 1: Say no to illegal gambling sites

Media outlets should cease referring to illegal outlets as reputable outlets. If a news story cites an illegal gambling site, it should so say so explicitly. If an illegal site is mentioned, the public should also be made aware that these illegal outlets lack regulatory oversight, consumer protections, and responsible gambling programs.

Key insight No. 2: Avoid direct advertising to vulnerable populations

Sports gambling operators should ensure that their advertising does not target vulnerable populations, particularly youth and those with gambling problems.  

For example, social media platforms provide gambling operators and sports teams with a powerful vehicle to communicate with their customers and fans; however, restrictions pertaining to sports wagering messaging should be put in place with the platforms that are particularly popular among underage groups (e.g.: Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat).

Key insight No. 3: Learn from others and don’t reinvent the wheel

Finally, the industry should ensure that its messaging adheres to established best practices – and, in addition to learning from the experience of other countries with a history of legalized sports wagering, the American Gaming Association’s Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering is a good place to start.

"We are entering a new era of changing behavior post-COVID. We are all ‘gamers’ now, having increased our game play during the pandemic, and as we emerge, a renewed commitment to wellness is vital. Crucially, this includes a renewed commitment to report responsibly on illegal gambling websites, and to eliminate irresponsible messaging that harms younger populations and those with gambling problems," says Bo Bernhard, IGI executive director and another of the report’s lead authors.

For more information, access the full report, entitled The Marketing Moment: Sports, Wagering, and Advertising in the United States, in its entirety here.

About University of Nevada, Las Vegas International Gaming Institute

For more than 25 years, UNLV International Gaming Institute (IGI) has provided research-based solutions, cutting-edge insights, and executive education to the gaming industry. Described as the “global intellectual capital of gaming” by former Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and “The Harvard of Gaming” by Global Gaming Business magazine, IGI houses several excellence initiatives, including the Center for Gaming Innovation, the International Center for Gaming Regulation, the Expanding the Leaderverse initiative, and the Hospitality & Esports Innovation Lab. Each of these addresses a vital need in the global gaming industry, for which the IGI serves as an answer center populated by an internationally recognized dream team of contributors. For more information, visit igi.unlv.edu

Media contact

Nicole Schultz

Communications Coordinator

UNLV International Gaming Institute

nicole.schultz@unlv.edu