Sportsbooks in Massachusetts will now be required to include “21+” or something similar on ads that can be seen in sporting venues, such as TD Garden, Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium.
That decision was made during Thursday’s Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting by a 3-2 vote.
Regulatory language that was passed prior to launch of sports betting suggested that operators add a phrase akin to “Must be 21” to any advertisement or branding — including on DraftKings’ Boston headquarters — that appeared anywhere in the state.
That stipulation was deemed too restrictive.
So, the compromise regulation voted upon Thursday states that “advertising, marketing, branding, and other materials shall state that patrons must be 21 years of age or older to participate, AND where providing only a logo it will not be required, EXCEPT where used in a sporting venue where it may be seen by people under the age of 21.”
Commissioners debated 21+ requirement on sportsbook ads
Commissioner Eileen O’Brien argued any use of a logo in signage should require the “Must be 21” messaging in any venue where the public, specifically anyone under 21, may see it. O’Brien has long expressed her desire to see age-specific disclaimers.
“I don’t see a difference between branding and advertising,” O’Brien said during Thursday’s public meeting.
But MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein expressed concerns that the MGC may be placing undue restrictions on Massachusetts sports betting operators.
“Is this something we are adopting in knee-jerk fashion?” Judd-Stein said. “Will they be required to create a new logo just for use in Massachusetts? Where have any of our peers (regulators in other states) done this same thing?”
Fanatics was singled out specifically because it has an established retail business that sells shirts, caps and other products with a Fanatics logo. Commissioners debated whether simply the presence of a logo was implying an advertisement for sports betting. The logo for Fanatics Sportsbook, which is currently offering its beta testing product in Massachusetts, uses the same stylized “F” as the company’s apparel and merchandise business.
Sportsbooks have 90 days to make these changes
Following the vote, the MGC passed a waiver of 90 days for operators to comply with the requirements of the newest of the state’s advertising regulations. Signs in ballparks and stadiums will need to have an age disclaimer at that time, even those that are simply the logo of a sportsbook.
The original regulation was so broad that it would have also applied to the headquarters of the sportsbook where a logo is visible to the public, and potentially, according to Judd-Stein, could cause “undue ramifications for licensees.”
“A logo is different from an advertisement,” Stein said in her opinion against the compromise regulation. “We have to treat all the licensees the same.”
Commissioner Brad Hill did not support the regulation to require the “21+” language to logos or advertisements, though he expressed a desire to come to a compromise. He was joined in his nay vote by Judd-Stein.