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April 21, 2023

New advertising standards aim to boost responsible gambling in New Jersey

All betting commercials will be required to prominently display the state's addiction hotline, 1-800-GAMBLER

Since sports betting became legal in New Jersey and 32 other states, it is nearly impossible to avoid ads for gambling. 

Throughout a single football or basketball game, there are commercial advertisements during timeouts, prop bets during pregame and half time and even gambling ads read by play-by-play announcers.

On cell phones, the ads routinely pop up as well, offering discounts and money for first-time users to try online sportsbooks.

New Jersey is now changing some of its gaming regulations to protect people who struggle with gambling addictions, and introducing new advertising standards for gambling operators.

At the East Coast Gaming Congress, state Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced the new standards, which would require the state's gambling addiction hotline, 1-800-GAMBLER, to be prominently displayed and featured in every ad. New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement also created a set of 15 best practices to be used in advertisements. 

Those practices include making sure the entire ad is focused on responsible gambling. Ads must be forthcoming about any offers extended to gamblers, and you can no longer say a bet is "risk-free" or a "guaranteed win" unless patrons are compensated accordingly, under the new guidelines. Terms and conditions must be clear and any stipulations have to be spelled out, including any requirements to deposit money.

The new standards also put a stop to unrealistic wagering requirements, such as $1,000 bonuses for betting $150,000. The gaming board said that sportsbooks should contact them before implementing any promotions. 

The regulations will also require all gaming outlets to provide an effective way for people to opt out of ads, and make it easier for people with gambling problems to add themselves to New Jersey’s voluntary self-exclusion list. Gambling venues or online affiliates are required to bar individuals on the list from gambling in person or online. 

"We have seen tremendous growth in sports wagering and online gaming in New Jersey,” David Rebuck, director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement, said. “In the face of that boom, we have a duty to protect the public from advertising that could be misleading or harmful. And for those in the grip of gambling addiction, we need to offer as many exit ramps from their condition as possible.”

Gambling addiction experts say the influx of opportunities has created challenges for people who struggle with control. 

Noah Vineber, a former compulsive gambler, told CBC radio host Brian Goldman that he is relieved sports betting was not as universally available when he quit as it is now. 

"You can't sit down to watch anything on TV and get through an hour without watching multiple gambling ads," he said.

Research indicates that children are more likely to become gamblers under the current avalanche of ads. In a report published in 2020, faculty at Ipsos Mori and the University of Stirling found that "regular exposure to gambling promotions can change perceptions and associations of gambling over time and impact the likelihood they will gamble in the future."

In March, New Jersey reported $165.7 million in online gaming revenue, a 17.8% increase from March 2022. Overall sports betting gross revenue from casinos, racetracks and other venues amounted to $93 million for March 2023, a 40.1% increase from last March.