In a public meeting on Monday morning, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) voted to prohibit affiliate marketers from entering into revenue sharing agreements with sports betting operators.
The decision will take effect April 14, when an exemption from a ban on all types of affiliate marketing agreements expires.
The five-person commission also voted to require responsible gambling messaging in all forms of advertising in Massachusetts, including billboards. In addition, the commission also finalized processes regarding the 1-800 number for problem gambling and streamlining of gambling addiction resources.
Online sports betting in Massachusetts has been live for over two weeks, and Monday’s decisions were made after the MGC faced criticism for not doing enough to shield Massachusetts consumers from sports betting advertising.
MGC facing criticism on sports betting ads
On Monday, an editorial in the the Boston Globe stated that “there’s good reason to question whether the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is doing all it can and should to protect consumers.”
The paper noted that MA Attorney General Andrea Campbell has instructed her office to urge the MGC to get tougher on sports betting operators and their advertising methods.
“As this state adjusts to the new reality of sports betting, it’s important to remember that the industry behind it cares about one thing: maximizing profits by encouraging people to bet their money, whether or not they can afford to lose it,” the Globe editorial states.
Problem gambling messaging formalized
Commissioners voted 5-0 to require any print or digital messaging to include specific responsible gambling messaging.
Advertisers must include the number 1-800-327-5050, which is staffed by experts in gambling services per training from the Department of Public Health. In addition, advertisers are required to offer access to the gambling self-exclusion program where it is possible.
Mark Vander Linden, the Director of Research and Responsible Gaming for MGC, advised that the GameSense logo be used on all advertisements, along with the 1-800 number, and the phrase “Play it Smart from the Start.”
According to the MGC website, GameSense “is an innovative responsible gaming program that encourages casino patrons who chose to gamble to adopt and/or maintain positive behaviors and attitudes that reduce the risk of gambling-related harm.” The state requires casino operators and sportsbooks to include access to GameSense certified professionals for customers.
MGC grapples with affiliate marketing models
Earlier this month, the MGC agreed to create an exemption to its ban on affiliate marketing deals of any kind. Under the exemption, affiliates can enter into agreements with sportsbooks to send them customers, and be paid in one of two ways.
The first method is CPA (Cost Per Acquisition), where an affiliate is paid a fee for every registered customer it refers to a sportsbook. The second alternative business model is when the sportsbook pays a percentage of the bets placed by that consumer in perpetuity. That’s referred to as revenue sharing.
Members of the MGC, led by chair Cathy Judd-Stein, approved an exemption that will be in effect until late April. But on Monday, the commission voted 5-0 in favor of language in regulation 256.01 that will allow CPA affiliate activity, but ban revenue sharing in Massachusetts.
Stein and other commissioners grappled with whether to require licensure for one or both of the affiliate pricing models. But they ultimately determined the existing language is satisfactory to delineate between the affiliate models. The MGC was not comfortable allowing sports betting operators to pay affiliate marketers based on the total net betting expenditure by a customer they deliver to a sportsbook.
In total, 30 affiliates have applied to do business in Massachusetts, with only five of them expressing that they had or would seek revenue sharing models.
If you or a loved one is experiencing problems with gambling, call 1-800-327-5050 or visit www.mahelpline.org/problemgambling to speak with a trained specialist for free, 24/7