BOSTON (State House News Service) – In addition to illegal bets that were accepted at all three in-person sportsbooks, investigators at the Mass. Gaming Commission are also reviewing advertisements from one of the mobile betting companies expected to launch Friday for potentially violating regulations.
Three ads for FanDuel were flagged by Commissioner Eileen O’Brien for potential violations of advertising regulations and were reviewed by the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau. One ad referenced iGaming, another suggested bettors could get “free bets,” and a third promoted the use of credit cards or prepaid cards to bet, which is illegal in Massachusetts. The Gaming Commission’s regulations also prohibit ads that imply sports betting is “free of risk.”
“I want this brought up in front of us for some sort of action. To me, right out of the gates to have ‘free bets,’ iGaming, and implying you could use a credit or prepaid card, to me you have myriad of violations all happening right before launch,” O’Brien said. She said she saw some of the ads while watching broadcast TV and some while watching on Hulu.
Chief enforcement counsel Heather Hall said two of the ads have already been taken down and that FanDuel was in the process of removing the ad that referenced credit cards. O’Brien said that FanDuel has been responsive to her concerns, but highlighted that the potential violations were not self-reported.
“They’re responding to us flagging them, and we are inundated with ads,” O’Brien said. She then suggested that the commission include a placeholder item on each meeting agenda for the IEB to brief commissioners on advertising and suspected violations.
Also Thursday morning, commissioners said they are open to adjusting their sports betting regulations to address concerns raised by Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office.
“I’m hearing each one of you indicate to us there are ways that we can make our regs better. And when we hear that, we are all ears,” chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said. She asked attorneys from Campbell’s office to provide the commission with specific regulatory language before the promulgation process is wrapped up on March 23.
The chairwoman also asked First Assistant Attorney General Patrick Moore whether there was anything that the commission could do to improve its regulations or oversight of sports betting companies before mobile betting goes live on Friday morning. Moore said one “considerable concern … which we think is potentially fixable in the very short term” is the way that social media and connected TV platforms like Hulu or YouTube TV might direct ads at people younger than the betting age of 21.
He said many of those platforms allow people under a certain age to be excluded from an advertiser’s audience.
“Where that capability exists, the operators should be required to use it,” he said. “I watch the Celtics every night, I watch with my 10-year-old on connected TV,” Moore said. “He’s getting the message that to enjoy the Celtics game, he’s got to bet on it. That’s not the message that we should be leaving 10-year-olds in the commonwealth.”