U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, of New York, minced no words when it comes to ads pitching sports betting. He doesn’t just want a ban of sportsbooks on the front of a player’s jersey. He doesn’t just want the head shot of someone like Bryce Harper banned from a jersey.
Tomko wants it all. No ads period.
Possible? Anything is possible.
He introduced the total ban six months ago, but little has happened since. The stall has not eased his determination to prohibit it all.
A lot has happened on the sports betting side in the interim six months.
States levied six-figure fines for violations related to the targeting of underage populations with sports betting ads. In the U.K., the nation’s gambling commission released a 336-page white paper calling for uniform standards on digital gaming.
Come November, Disney will launch ESPN BET, bringing Disney to the sports betting arena.
Tonko delivered comments at the Racing and Gaming Conference at Saratoga, one of the nation’s largest gatherings on legal issues related to gambling law and horse racing.
“Let me be clear: This legislation would not in any way ban mobile sports betting,” Tonko said during his Saratoga panel appearance. “It is narrowly targeted at the predatory advertising that has coincided with a significant increase in gambling addiction.”
While confident, Tonko knows he needs a lot more sponsors just to get it out of committee, let alone to a vote in the floor of the House.
“We’re serious about the bill. It’s just about how quickly we can get the sponsors,” he told Sports Handle.
The proliferation of sports betting advertising with few restrictions to keep sportsbooks from “targeting children” magnifies the appeal of sports betting, he suggests. But when the message comes from star players, that makes a bad situation worse when it comes to underage betting.
“They are models for these kids. You’re taking everyone for their word,” Tonko told Sports Handle. “They’re going to put that message out not intending to draw consequential outcomes, but it’s going to cause people to forgo, a better judgment.”
While he will listen to differing takes on the standards he seeks, he won’t give up the fight.
Martin Lycka, a compliance executive with U.S. gambling giant, Entain, said a ban could push bettors into the black market. Brendan Bussmann, a gaming lobbyist, called Tonko’s proposal federal overreach, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court called it a states’ rights issue.
Tonko hopes for action on it “sooner rather than later.”
Elizabeth Garvey, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig, LLP, and moderator of the panel, is betting on Tonko to deliver.
“He’s relentless about getting issues passed that he’s passionate about,” Garvey said.