The American Gaming Association (“AGA”) updated its “Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering” (the “Code”) to address several issues that have recently arisen in the sports betting space.  The AGA, which is the self-regulatory body for the U.S. casino industry, initially drafted the Code in 2019.  These new updates, meant to represent the AGA’s “intention to protect consumers and evolve [its] standards as this nascent market matures,” are significant and include the following:

  • Enhancing protections for college-aged audiences by:
    • Prohibiting college partnerships that promote, market or advertise sports wagering activity (other than to alumni networks or content focused on responsible gaming initiatives or problem gambling awareness).
    • Prohibiting sportsbook NIL deals for amateur and college athletes.
  • Adding age restrictions (21+) for any individual featured in sports betting advertising.
  • Changing all references to the “legal age of wagering” to 21-plus.
  • Banning all use of “risk free” in advertising.

Moves made by third parties may have forced the AGA’s hand to develop some of these new standards.  For example, many state Name, Image, and Likeness laws and related university Name, Image, and Likeness rules already prohibit sportsbook and other gambling endorsements by amateur and college athletes.  Further, state regulators in Ohio and Massachusetts have already cracked down on sportsbooks’ use of “risk free” in promotional materials – and more recently, a proposed class action brought against BetMGM in the Southern District of New York claims the sportsbook engaged in deceptive advertising by falsely promising “free” or “risk-free” bets that are not actually free (the lead plaintiff alleges that users had to place real-money wagers and if they lost, they do not get their money back, but instead receive credits to their BetMGM account, which expire within 7 days).

Either way, sportsbooks and their marketing agencies should take note.