International Marketing Challenges Come to Ohio Sports Betting

Ohio is facing international marketing challenges that the sports betting industry continues to grapple with. Ohio’s draft sports betting rules prohibit advertisements that: 

“Promote irresponsible or excessive participation in sports gaming, or suggest that social, financial, or personal success is guaranteed by engaging in sports gaming.”   

This goes a step further than Ohio’s current gambling advertising laws, which prohibit ads that are “false, deceptive, or misleading.” A sports betting ad can currently avoid being deceptive but be prohibited under the draft rules, like this ad below: 

This sportsbook ad implies that bettors should spend their nights betting on sports. While few would take that ad at face value, it seems to violate the draft sports betting rules. Betting all night would be “excessive participation” by any reasonable standard. 

The draft rules are not in effect yet. They haven’t been integrated into Ohio’s Revised Code. So, there are no penalties for violating the higher standard for sports betting ads set in the draft rules. How the Ohio Casino Control Commission decides to apply the new sports betting rules will determine how serious they are about addressing problem gambling concerns in sports betting advertising. 

Ohio Sharp reached out to Jack Entertainment and the Ohio Casino Control Commission for comment. Neither company has responded.

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International Marketing Challenges in Sports Betting  

The United Kingdom has stricter sports betting regulations than the United States. UK sportsbooks must make their bettors provide proof of income for certain increases in bet sizes or frequency. The United Kingdom has recently banned celebrities from appearing in gambling ads. Morningstar also reports that the UK government is considering banning “free bets” and “VIP packages” to bettors who lose enough money.  

American sports betting markets aren’t taking these kinds of steps in their sports betting regulations or marketing restrictions. But the United Kingdom shows how the United States could begin interpreting regulations like the ones Ohio is proposing. 

UK Gambling Marketing Restrictions and Tactics 

A UK study analyzed sports betting tweets to see whether they complied with UK gambling laws. The sampled tweets complied with many restrictions. None of the sampled tweets “[provided] an escape from personal…problems” or “suggest that gambling is a rite of passage.” These are some of the low-hanging fruits of sports betting marketing ethics. 

If the sampled tweets, 1% “[portrayed] or [encouraged] people to gamble alone or at inappropriate times [like] late at night.” This is uncommon in the industry, which is part of the reason BetJack’s tweet above stands out. There’s broad agreement among UK sportsbook brands not to do that, and it even stands out in a state that hasn’t launched sports betting yet.

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The Most Common Questionable Marketing Tactics 

The most common violations the study flagged were: 

  • 37% – [Exploiting] the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience, or lack of knowledge of children, young people, or other vulnerable groups.
  • 34% – [Placing] undue emphasis on money-motives for gambling
  • 27% – [Giving an] erroneous perceptions of the level of risk involved or the extent of the gambler’s control over a bet

The tweets that exploited credulous bettors included tweets like “Bet $10, Win $30 in free bets” or “a successful person never loses…they either win or learn!” The terms aren’t immediately clear. The “free” bets require real money to be spent on wagers, and the site credits can only be used for betting. New bettors don’t know that, and Twitter is a poor medium to communicate nuance through.   

Money-motive tweets were obvious tweets like “make more money this weekend sports betting.” Implying that sports betting is easy to profit from is unethical for any gambling company. Most bettors are long-term losers. Many bettors who appear as though they’re professionals just get lucky up front and don’t realize they’re running on luck until a long streak of losses.

The erroneous perception of risk tweets were from tipsters with “expert” picks. False experts who claim they can make better picks are obvious scams for two reasons. First, professionals who can actually beat sportsbooks don’t advertise their betting systems. Second, sportsbooks can adjust their prices to account for any betting systems they discover. So, they can make sure systems that professionals exploit no longer work. 

Deciding how to deal with these types of tweets and social media accounts is an international marketing challenge for sports betting industries everywhere. 

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How Ohio Can Confront International Marketing Challenges 

Ohio’s draft sports betting rules expand the types of advertisements that gambling companies cannot run. However, even comprehensive rules can’t eliminate every instance of unethical marketing. Social media has made that impossible. One study found that major UK gambling brands tweeted an average of 89 to 202 tweets per day. So, policing each of those tweets as they’re generated isn’t realistic.

However, marketing regulators can develop rules that target the most egregious advertisements. Regulators should expand their focus from dishonest and misleading ads to ads that promote the same beliefs that problem gamblers hold. 

Ohio’s draft rules are a step toward a set of marketing restrictions that keep gambling myths from becoming mainstream. These are major international marketing challenges for the industry to tackle. How Ohio interprets its new marketing rules will determine whether the state is prepared to meet them.

AP Photo/John Minchillo

About the Author

Christopher Gerlacher

Christopher Gerlacher is a freelance writer tucked into the foothills in Colorado Springs. He works as a content writer, professional resume writer, and SEO professional articles in multiple industries that can be viewed from his portfolio. He's a contributor to both Michigan Sharp and Colorado Sharp.