Are Sports Betting Ads in Massachusetts Really the New Joe Camel?

Well the Doc opened up the old mailbag today and here’s what poured out.

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was, minding my own business and clicking through the Boston Herald, when I came across this Rick Sobey piece about the explosion of sports betting ads in Massachusetts now that online wagering has become legal here.

Massachusetts is facing a ‘relentless barrage’ of sports betting ads, restrictions are needed now: Advocates

It’s nearly impossible these days to turn on the TV or scroll on social media without seeing a “relentless barrage” of sports betting ads before mobile gambling launches, as advocates call for the state to put in ad restrictions like for tobacco products.

The avalanche of sports betting ads comes with enticing promos from the companies — which are offering hundreds of dollars in bonus bets if the user signs up before mobile betting goes live on Friday.

“It has been a relentless barrage of sports gambling advertising,” said Les Bernal, the national director of Stop Predatory Gambling, who lives in Massachusetts. “It’s unrelenting, and this is a product that’s highly dangerous and addictive.”

They say those under 35 are most susceptible to those pitches. Whaddaya think – is that true?

– Bet Noir

Dear Mr. Noir,

The Doc is laying plenty of eight-to-five that a boatload of Bay State bros will be hooked like halibut a year from now. The lure is this kind of TV spot.

Did you catch FanDuel’s pitch? “We make a bet around every two seconds – not only on the game, but on the game of life . . . Betting on picking up that curious hitchhiker carrying a bowling bag . . .  Every moment in life is a bet. But life doesn’t offer you a $150 in free bets when you bet just five.”

No it doesn’t. But a drug dealer will offer you a free bag after your first, just to sink the hook in deeper.

FanDuel’s big-money gamble on Massachusetts, however, has failed to pay off just yet, as Matthew Bain reports at PlayMA.

3 FanDuel Ads In Massachusetts Potentially Violate Regulations

FanDuel has pulled two ads in Massachusetts and is taking down a third for potential violations of state sports betting advertising regulations.

That’s according to Heather Hall, chief enforcement counsel for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, during Thursday’s MGC meeting. FanDuel commercials that referenced “iGaming” and “free bets” have both been pulled. Another commercial that makes reference to credit cards and pre-paid cards is in the process of being pulled.

iGaming, or online casino gambling, is illegal in Massachusetts. State regulations bar the use of “free” in advertising for Massachusetts sportsbooks. And credit cards are not allowed for sports betting in the state because of responsible gambling concerns.

Bottom line: FanDuel seems to have jumped the gun, since online sports betting wasn’t legal in Massachusetts until today. Beyond that, though, the sports book clearly needs to clean up its language.

And there are other warning signals for the sports betting industry, among them Colin A. Young and Sam Drysdale’s State House News service report (via NBC Boston) that Attorney General Sounds Alarm on Mass. Sports Betting Ads , as well as Christina Hager’s CBS Boston report, Mobile sports betting under scrutiny on eve of Massachusetts launch.

The Doc’s diagnosis: Five’ll get you ten the sports books come up winners in this tug of war.  Just a hunch.

As for the detrimental effects of wider access to sports betting, here’s what the Boston Herald piece reported.

About 2% of the state’s adult population experiences problem gambling, and 8.4% of Massachusetts adults are at-risk gamblers, according to research cited by the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health.

With the expansion of legal sports betting, it’s expected that the need for services and resources will increase in the state, especially for young men.

The state has a solution, though: “The MA Problem Gambling Helpline is 1-800-327-5050, and people can get help at”

Not to be the skunk at the garden party, but the Doc is guessing those help lines will get about as much traffic as the Christmas Tree Shop on July 4th.  Unfortunately.

Finally, there are the “advocates [calling] for the state to put in ad restrictions like for tobacco products.” Those folks might want to consider what happened when cigarette companies were banned from broadcast advertising in the 1970s, as detailed by the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. Beyond saving  the tobacco industry megabucks, “with TV and broadcast advertising banned, the six major firms acquired an almost lasting control over the market.”

Any bets on which of the six competing digital platforms might welcome that result for them?