Gambling Ads Crackdown Draws Nearer in the US

If you’ve watched any sports recently then you most likely have noticed the near-constant barrage of gambling ads. Even much of the non-sports programming has them quite regularly. The blitz of gambling ads may have brought in a lot of new users, but it seems like it will also bring about some sweeping changes in the near future.

Like most issues, the debate is hardly a binary yes/no on whether gambling ads should be allowed at all. This is some progress at least. Among the more experienced, there is a particular focus on the types of imagery and the setting of false expectations. Viewers are primed to believe that anyone can be a big winner and that risks are low, or even risk-free in some cases. Obviously this isn’t the case, and in fact the gambling industry has seen a sharp increase in the percentage that bettors are losing to the house over just the past few years. And if this trend continues – the rate will very soon be unsustainable, if it isn’t already.

As far as the imagery goes, we’ve all seen the ads with showers of cash or a bettor having a payout quickly hit their bank account. While most advertising in general tends to exaggerate positive attributes, sportsbooks often take it to such an extreme that it is almost comical. Users often have to wait days or even weeks for a payout, and are subject to far more scrutiny than when they made their deposit. The sheer scale of the disparities between deposits and payouts alone is enough to merit its own article, and is full of predatory practices.

Perhaps the most disreputable of the false expectations though, is the widespread practice of banning or limiting winning bettors. When viewed alongside the gambling ads showing nothing but winning, it is almost laughable. But given all of the harm perpetuated by these utterly false expectations, it is certainly no laughing matter at all. Yet including the obligatory responsible gambling statement in a tiny font and giving donations to various groups and trendy social causes supposedly makes it all better though.

With all of the blatantly unethical tactics and saturation of ad space, one has to wonder if pushing the envelope to the point of a crackdown isn’t at least somewhat deliberate. After all, the top few sportsbooks would actually benefit greatly by having the advertising window closed before any competitors could rise up and take advantage of it. Locking out potential competitors is most definitely at the top of their mind, as their lobbyists have been very successful in adding clauses to legislation that strictly limit the number of competitors allowed. Not very capitalistic of them, unless perhaps you count the crony variety.

The whole debate around gambling ads highlights just how fundamentally broken the current system is, and is a likely contributor to the poor image that gambling has. The few giants are in a win-win position regardless how it turns out, and it would be naive to think that this is all by chance. It closely mirrors the situation over on the responsible gambling side, which is successfully weaponized against smaller operators and startups. They simply cannot afford to pay off all of the astroturf groups and ultimately end up being disproportionately targeted by them.

With the knowledge that the few giant sportsbooks have found themselves in a win-win position, the whole gambling ads debate begins to take on a somewhat different light. If the gambling industry wants to be competitive and healthy, then it needs to start approaching these issues with the perspectives of all participants in mind. If the industry is so easily dominated by these few giants, then its future is quite grim indeed. And as usual, the bettors end up the worst off when all is said and done.

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