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America’s leading gaming advocacy group is opposing the use of “risk free” bets in sportsbook advertising, another major step against a marketing practice that was seemingly ubiquitous in the early days of regulated US sports betting.

The American Gaming Association announced Tuesday it had undertaken its most thorough update to its Responsible Marketing Code, including prohibiting the use of “risk free” bet promotions and a host of other marking practices. Once common in advertising for most major sportsbooks, “risk free” or “no risk” bets have been increasingly scrutinized as critics consider them misleading.

Multiple state regulatory bodies have also explicitly banned such marketing practices.

“Established in 2019, AGA’s Responsible Marketing Code reflects the commitment of our members to set and adhere to a high bar for responsible advertising,” said AGA President and CEO Bill Miller in a statement Tuesday announcing the updates. “Today’s updates advance that commitment and represent our intention to protect consumers and evolve our standards as this nascent market matures.”

Marketing language crackdown continues

The AGA’s move is part of a larger trend to limit – and now prohibit – promotions for “risk free” bets.

In the nearly five years since the Supreme Court struck down the federal wagering bans, most major regulated US sportsbooks have offered some sort of promotion for new bettors that allows them to receive additional funds in case their inaugural wager loses. Many top books including FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Barstool have offered $1,000 or more in “risk free” bets, with Caesars offering up to $3,000 in New York ahead of the state’s sports betting launch.

AGA CEO Bill Miller: “Today’s updates advance that commitment and represent our intention to protect consumers and evolve our standards as this nascent market matures.”

While sportsbooks refund the amount bet in a new customer’s initial wager, it has almost exclusively come in the form of sportsbook credit, not withdrawable cash. A bettor losing their first bet would then need to win back that amount in successive free bets in order to just break even; the bettor does not receive the original wager plus the new winnings, as with typical bets.

Regulators and now major advocacy groups such as the AGA have strongly pushed back against this practice, which seemed to be promoted in nearly every sports betting ad just months ago. With the state-by-state prohibitions as well as AGA opposition, “risk free” bets now appear to be gone from the nations’ gambling lexicon, instead replaced by “no sweat bet” or other terms.

The AGA has partnered with most major sportsbooks in its responsible gambling efforts.

Additional updates focus on college betting

The “risk free” ban comes as part of a sweeping host of changes to the AGA’s sports betting marking code.

Much of the changes centered around enhancing protections for college-aged student-athletes and audiences. That includes prohibiting college partnerships that promote or market sports wagering activity to undergraduate students, the majority of whom are under age 21, the legal age to bet on sports in most states with regulated sportsbooks.

The updated code also prohibits sportsbooks from striking Name-Image-Likeness (NIL) deals with college or other amateur athletes. Recent NIL legislation in most states has allowed NCAA athletes the previously prohibited opportunity to earn compensation from sponsorships, but the new code reaffirms the opposition to letting sportsbooks strike compensated partnerships at this level. A handful of professional athletes in the major North American pro sports leagues have signed deals with sportsbooks.

Any individual, athlete or otherwise, under age 21 is prohibited from appearing in any sports betting-related marketing, as part of the code.

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