Top US bookmakers lobby against rules to protect young people and problem gamblers

One of the country’s largest online gambling operators is trying to water down rules aimed at helping problem gamblers and protecting young and vulnerable people, documents seen by the Guardian show.

FanDuel is lobbying New York state to reconsider a proposal to ban gambling platforms from using certain words and phrases to attract problem gamblers or people who may be problem gamblers to their sites.

The company, part of Dublin betting giant Flutter Entertainment, has also opposed rules banning sports betting advertising near university campuses. The legal age for this activity in the state is 21.

Online sports betting has surged since 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a decades-old law that banned the practice in much of the country. New York is the largest market in the United States, with more than $2.1 billion in bets in the state last month. Operators spend billions on advertising in a bid to dominate each new market.

Unredacted documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request and the New York State Register detail FanDuels’ opposition to proposed sports betting advertising rules and how the state Gaming Commission held its ground. The rule finally took effect in October.

Some memos were originally released in redacted form. The unredacted documents raise concerns among advocates for problem gambling. Problem gambling lobbyist Brianne Doura-Schawohl said gambling companies that supported regulations before legalization now appear to be trying to weaken them.

She said this was the greatest hypocrisy. This is dishonest not only to the public, but also to policymakers, many of whom may believe that responsible gambling is a priority.

Dulla-Shavor added that the gambling industry is using consumer welfare and responsible gambling practices to legitimize the market. But when given the opportunity to influence regulations, they seek to overturn and cancel any obligations they have to the consumer protections they promise are the backbone of their business.

FanDuel did not respond to a request for comment. The operator said it is committed to protecting our players and providing tools to ensure they can gamble in a healthy and responsible manner.

In a Sept. 27 memo, New York State Gaming Commission general counsel Edmund Burns outlined FanDuels’ opposition to a rule he said would prohibit operators from using keywords or similar methods to attract people to their sites who are or may be problem gamblers. website.

Burns said FanDuel believes the requirement is extremely subjective and impractical to enforce, much like liquor stores cannot advertise to customers who may be intoxicated.

Commission staff defended the rule, arguing that sports betting platforms may embed phrases such as “problem gambling help” on their websites to entice people to type the phrase into search engines. While FanDuel recommended scrapping the proposal or limiting it to known problem gamblers, commission staff said that would not adequately address the problem.

FanDuel also opposes bans on advertising in areas of college or university campuses, arguing that such vague language could be interpreted to include nearby unrelated residential and commercial areas.

Commission staff defended the ban, saying it was intended to prevent predatory marketing targeting underage students. They say a gambling ad across from a first-year college dormitory could be offensive, even if it’s not on college-owned land.

Another rule proposes that sportsbooks be held liable for false, deceptive or misleading statements made by companies marketing their services. FanDuel objected and said only affiliates, not the operators themselves, should be held liable. But the commission’s staff defended the rule, insisting that operators should be able and willing to appropriately control affiliates’ efforts to promote their platforms.

Burns sent a separate memo on Sept. 25 detailing objections from operators including FanDuel to another set of revised rules for New York’s fantasy sports market. While the fantasy sports industry insists that the activity should not be legally classified as gambling, some addiction activists claim that in fact it is.

One rule aims to hold operators strictly liable if they allow prohibited persons, such as minors, to use their platforms. If a breach occurs, a company can mitigate any penalties or sanctions by demonstrating good faith reliance on false information. Despite FanDuel’s objections, council staff insisted the measure was appropriate.

FanDuel also lobbied to repeal a proposed rule that would have required operators to show compulsive gambling aids in their ads. The company said such information would take up too much space in advertising and that its national marketing would need to reflect New York’s specific requirements, Burns said. The company also claimed that New York’s licensing laws only required such messages to be posted on the website.

Commission staff defended the rule, saying it did not violate state law. They said fantasy sports advertising that could reasonably be expected to be seen in New York should be appropriately regulated. All revised fantasy sports rules in New York also go into effect in October.

FanDuel also recommended removing anti-money laundering requirements, such as the need to establish internal policies, procedures and controls, and to submit independent audits to regulators under the Burns and National Registers. Council staff defended the measure.

Jim Maney, executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling, expressed concern about the impact of the dramatic increase in online gambling across the state. ‘I think industry can help more,’ he said. This may be onerous, but we must ensure we protect those most at risk.

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