Are Sports Betting Ads Targeting Your Kids?

Family of four watching TV together on the couch

Sports betting has swiftly become a widespread phenomenon in the world of advertising. Ads for the now widely legal practice have sprung up in television, mobile, print, and internet spaces since the legislation passed, and business has steadily increased. However, parents have become more concerned about these particular pieces of media and just who their target audience is. Many have begun wondering — are sports betting ads targeting my kids?

The Answer Is Complicated

While legally, sports books can’t target anyone under the age of 21 with their ads, that doesn’t mean some of the tactics, tools, and tricks they use don’t appeal to a younger audience. Additionally, some companies have launched initiatives incorporating gambling-like mechanics into their offerings that introduce younger children and teenagers to the practice. It can potentially lead to teenage gambling problems in Atlantic City, NJ, and beyond. This spring, CCGNJ Executive Director Felicia Grondin appeared before the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee and decried the volume of gambling ads. The Committee Chairman, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, agreed the amount of gambling advertising has become “obscene.” 

Aggressive Advertising Tactics

The sports betting industry has swiftly become one of the most competitive markets in the United States. As more places lift restrictions on the practice, more sports books are opening up shop to try and take a piece of the pie. As the competition for eyes increases, so does the aggression in the advertising. 

The biggest names in sports betting have agreements with the major sports leagues and television networks to promote their apps and offerings, trying to draw more people into their ecosystem with the promises of “risk-free bets” and 10-15 dollars to make your first bet. These incentives are designed to draw in new bettors, but they can also introduce impressionable children to gambling and normalize it in a way they couldn’t reach before. 

Gambling-Like Offerings

Organizations like the NFL have always positioned themselves as a family-friendly entity. Watching NFL games on Sunday has become a treasured tradition for families nationwide. With this welcoming atmosphere comes partnerships with other media companies to reach that wide and diverse audience, such as their recent partnership with Nickelodeon and its parent company ViacomCBS. 

They ran a kid-centric website called NFL Nick Play that featured kid-centric cartoons, trivia, and Pick’em content. The site included various sports betting terminology throughout. Different offerings featured words and systems that mirrored games, parlay cards, and rewards for repeat visits — similar to how sports books phrase their services. 

Parents and experts alike that have seen this type of content have expressed concerns over grooming and the possibility of problem gambling occurring in the future. Even though there isn’t monetary compensation attached to winning these games, a child’s brain chemistry can begin to change as they’re exposed to the similar sensations of winning a big bet that problem gamblers feel. 

The Lines Between Problem Gambling and Skill-Based Gambling Blur

One side effect of gambling becoming more accepted by society comes down to how the practice gets framed in the public consciousness. Before, gambling was often viewed as a game of chance, where the odds of winning were stacked against you, but the payout could be significant. There was still that negative connotation that would deter a large number of people away from the practice. However, how people have begun talking about sports betting has changed and is starting to affect how children and teenagers view it. 

Instead of being a game of luck, sports betting advertising has begun to frame it as a game of skill. Players with enough skill can overcome the odds and win big. This subtle change in wording greatly impacts the current and next generation of potential gamblers, switching their internal narrative from luck to skill. Skill-based games imply that with enough practice, teenage gamblers can learn how to play the game and win big at a sports betting parlay or a Pick’em Challenge. 

How 800-GAMBLER Can Help the Teenager in Your Life

As gambling becomes more widely accepted in our society, growing gambling markets can lead to a surge in underage betting problems that can have far-reaching effects on their life. As more gambling ads hit the market, more kids are exposed to the culture and may become more susceptible to problem gambling. However, if you have noticed that your teenagers’ exposure to gambling has led to a serious problem, resources are available to help. 

800-GAMBLER’s confidential 24/7 hotline has helped countless people deal with their problem gambling and gain access to the resources they need to handle their issues better. If you or a loved one have an issue with problem sports gambling in Atlantic City, NJ, or beyond, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. 


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