Bettor Safe, a marketing campaign of Conscious Gaming — an independent non-profit established by geolocation company GeoComply — this week is launching consumer awareness advertising in Pennsylvania designed to spotlight the difference between legal and illegal sports betting websites.
The timing, of course, is designed to get just ahead of the massive gambling festival that is the NCAA men’s basketball March Madness 68-team tournament.
Conscious Gaming’s recent survey showed that about 75% of adults in Pennsylvania and New Jersey who have bet online say they will place an online sports bet during March Madness, or will consider it.
The same survey showed that 75% of these residents might be unable to differentiate a legal betting site from an illegal website.
“There’s no such thing as a sure bet on an illegal website,” a narrator intones in a 30-second ad aimed at Pennsylvanians. “Illegal betting sites are accountable to no one. That puts you and your money at risk. Why play these odds?
“Pennsylvania now offers legal online betting for those who want to wager,” the narrator adds. “Legal sites will pay out your winnings, ensure fair play, and support responsible gaming.
“That benefits you — and Pennsylvania’s economy. Visit BettorSafe.org/PA for more information. Don’t be sorry — be ‘Bettor Safe.'”
New Jersey gets its own message
A New Jersey-focused ad by Bettor Safe takes a different script: “Manipulated odds. Identity Theft. Fraud. If you wager on an illegal website, you risk your security — and winnings.
“Luckily, you can avoid these headaches. New Jersey now offers legal online betting. Legal websites will keep you protected, ensure fair play, support responsible gaming, and boost the state’s economy.
“Visit BettorSafe.org/NJ for more information. Don’t be sorry — be ‘Bettor Safe.'”
The BettorSafe website adds: “By using a legal site, you are supporting local services and communities — rather than funding illegal activity. In states that allow legal online betting, the taxes generated from betting revenue help to fund education, improve infrastructure, support first responders and provide other essential services. In most cases, online betting is done in partnership with the land-based gaming industry or state lottery — meaning that when you bet legally online, you are supporting a local industry and local jobs.”
Of course, the campaign is not likely to win over too many experienced gamblers who have frequented offshore sports betting sites for many years. In some cases, those high-volume bettors get favorable “rebates” designed to encourage loyalty to a certain site.
Such gamblers also may be able to bet on credit, and a “big score” doesn’t automatically lead to notification to the Internal Revenue Service for tax purposes.
March Madness legal betting feels new
Legal sports betting outside of Nevada still is in its relative infancy almost three years after the U.S. Supreme Court nullified a 1992 federal law that opened the door for any state to offer the same Las Vegas-style wagers.
The NCAA tournament of 2019 was the first one with legal betting in those states quick to allow it, such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, while last year’s tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic just days before the opening tipoffs.
So across the U.S., many sports fans are experiencing either their first or second opportunity to bet legally on the (almost) annual men’s basketball tournament. The ad campaign therefore has a large and perhaps receptive audience of casual and novice bettors.
Conscious Gaming’s online survey on behalf of the Bettor Safe Campaign took place from Feb. 24-26 among a sample of 1,078 adults in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This was a census-balanced sample of adults based on age, gender, and region.
Nearly 40% of Pennsylvanians surveyed who have bet online said they have wagered on offshore/unregulated sites, while roughly 10% are not sure if they have bet on an illegal website.