There’s little doubt legalizing online casinos in Illinois will lead to a glut of advertising by gaming operators.
After all, advertising by Illinois online sportsbooks has tailed off some as the market, which opened in March 2020, matures. Also, online casinos are where the real money is for operators.
If the state authorizes Illinois online casinos, ads for them will be on heavy rotation on TV and radio.
Mediaradar reported in December that nationally, “through October, more than 440 gambling advertisers invested more than $738 million across digital, print, and TV ads, representing a 22% [year-over-year] increase… About 69% went to national broadcast and cable TV and print ads.”
Illinois online sportsbook operators DraftKings, BetMGM and FanDuel’s parent company, Flutter Entertainment, jointly accounted for $460 million (or 62%) of the total US gambling advertising investment in 2022. That indicates they would be major advertisers if IL online casinos are legalized.
It’s important to note that more gambling advertising is not all a bad thing. While the volume of ads is potentially annoying, they will support local Illinois broadcasters.
What we can expect from ads in Illinois based on other states
Currently, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Connecticut, West Virginia and the Canadian province of Ontario are the only North American jurisdictions that offer both online casinos and sportsbooks. Delaware has online casinos, but only retail sportsbooks, not online ones. Nevada offers online sportsbooks, but not online casinos.
Michigan, the closest of those to Illinois, launched both online casinos and sportsbooks simultaneously in January 2021. Two years later, the gaming ads in Michigan now tend to skew more toward promoting casinos than sportsbooks. Casino ads are more prevalent during daytime TV, local news and non-sports events. Sports betting takes the focus during sports broadcasts. The volume of ads has also decreased somewhat in Michigan as the market has now matured.
In most US states that have online gaming, there’s few restrictions on the content of the ads. Operators can advertise as much as they like and promote bonuses, rewards and credits for signing up.
Ontario is a different story.
Nine months ago, online gaming launched in Canada’s largest province. Ever since, there has been an over-saturation of ads promoting online gaming. Except, the gaming regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, bans operators from advertising bonuses, rewards or any kind of inducement for signing up. The operators can offer such rewards, they just can’t advertise them. You have to go directly to the operators’ websites to find out what they are.
The idea is to reduce the lure of such offers to those that may have an existing gambling problem or those that might develop one after being attracted to sign up based on the promise of free money.
Illinois online casino ads would focus on customers being 21+
The rules governing advertising for Illinois online sports betting operators focus mostly on not pitching to underage gamblers. In Illinois, you must be 21 or older to gamble.
The advertising and marketing section of the administrative code from the Illinois Joint Committee of Administrative Rules specifically mentions not directly advertising or promoting sports wagering to people under 21. The highlights of the rules that went into effect in March 2021 are that ads:
- Shall not contain images, symbols, celebrity or entertainer endorsements, or language designed to appeal specifically to those under 21 years of age.
- Cannot feature anyone who is, or appears to be, under 21 years of age.
- Shall not be published, aired, displayed, or distributed in media outlets, including social media, that appeal primarily to individuals under 21 years of age.
- Cannot be placed before any audience where the majority of the viewers or participants is presumed to be under 21 years of age.
The rules also prohibit “language materially consistent with the compulsive gambling text determined by rule by the Department of Human Services.” Also, ads cannot imply bettors have a greater chance of winning with one operator over the others or that the chance of winning improves when betting more.
Those rules now apply to Illinois online sportsbooks. So, it is reasonable to expect the same guidelines would apply to advertising online casinos.
Illinoisans will likely see lots of celebrities such as BetMGM pitchman Jamie Foxx. But he won’t be able to promote gambling to people younger than 21.