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New Jersey sports betting advertisements are flooding television and radio commercial breaks. One state lawmaker says such marketing is giving way to an increase in problem gambling.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex) helped champion New Jersey’s sports betting bill in 2018. But the longtime gaming supporter and Atlantic City advocate believes sports betting adverts and promotional marketing have become a bit too much.
This advertising, marketing, and promoting is obnoxious,” Caputo said recently to NJ Advance Media. “It’s obscene. You can’t possibly flip on the television without being hammered with a [sports betting] advert.
“I’m sufficiently old enough to not be entrapped, but there are plenty of younger people who find themselves being influenced by these advertisements,” Caputo continued. “It’s very upsetting to see.”
New Jersey is the second-richest sports betting state behind New York. Nearly $11 billion was wagered legally on sports last year in New Jersey. Oddsmakers kept about $770 million of the action on a 7% win rate.
Sportsbooks Heavy Spenders
Caputo understands why New Jersey’s licensed sports betting operators are clogging commercial breaks and filling up social media feeds. With 37 licensed entities competing for players’ bets, sportsbooks have been willing to spend heavily on their customer acquisition costs.
According to Media Radar, the US gaming industry spent $488 million between November 2020 and November 2021 on television advertising. The bulk of the spend came from online sports betting companies such as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Caesars Sportsbook. Adweek adds that sportsbooks doled out nearly $21.5 million on television commercials during the first week of the NFL regular season last year.
Across all verticals, such as television, radio, billboards, and social media, as well as promotional incentives, DraftKings and FanDuel each spent around $800 million last year. The incessant marketing, however, is fueling a rise in people seeking treatment for gaming disorders, claims Felicia Grondin of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ).
The CCGNJ executive director says calls to the organization’s 1-800-GAMBLER hotline regarding excessive sports gambling have spiked nearly 500% since New Jersey’s first legal bet was wagered in 2018.
“The uptick is pushed by the abundance of promotion on television,” Grondin said. She particularly takes issue with sportsbooks routinely offering risk-free promotional bets.
“Advertising of this nature can be equated to a liquor store offering free alcohol or a drug dealer offering a free bag of heroin to individuals with a substance abuse problem,” Grondin declared.
Little Legislative Recourse
Caputo concedes that since the local television stations serving New Jersey are primarily based in New York and Pennsylvania, there’s not much Garden State lawmakers can do. The state also does not have authority over streaming providers.
With sports betting adverts unlikely to go away anytime soon, Caputo and Grondin believe New Jersey should fund public service announcements that would run intermittently between sportsbook ads.
Such an initiative would seemingly take a page out of the NFL’s playbook. Last October, the NFL committed more than $6.2 million to launch its first-ever Responsible Play program.
The NFL ran a 30-second spot starring former NFL coach Steve Mariucci informing viewers of the potential risks of betting on sports during the nationally broadcast playoffs games in January. The PSA was developed in conjunction with the National Council on Problem Gambling.
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