According to one viewer, a questionable TV advertisement for online gambling aired in the Philadelphia area over the weekend.
During a rerun of the TV show Sabrina the Teenage Witch, ads for at least one prominent Pennsylvania online gambling brand appeared, according to a local responsible gambling advocate who posted about the incident on Twitter. The brands that reportedly appeared are owned by Flutter Entertainment, one of the leading internet gambling firms across the U.S.
Thank you @starscasino @FanDuel and @Betfair for airing back to back to back commercials this morning during Sabrina The Teenage Witch on @Phl17 in Philadelphia.
Great job targeting adolescents with online gambling promotions.#Disgraceful
Ethical Gambling Reform is coming.
— HJLExplorer (@HJLExplorer) March 13, 2021
FanDuel, one of Flutter’s leading brands, was alleged by the viewer to have been featured in at least one of the TV ad spots.
“We do not market to children or teens,” a representative of FanDuel Group stated to Penn Bets Tuesday. “As for this specific instance, the ad-buy ran on PH17’s classic television show channel, of which a vast majority of viewers are aged 55+. The ad-buy was targeted to a demographic of adults 25-54. Promoting responsible gaming is something we take very seriously and we do not believe these ads targeted underage viewers.”
A request for comment from the TV station, PHL 17, wasn’t returned.
Penn Bets was unable to locate any images or screenshots of the ads.
Is there a problem with the advertisement?
It doesn’t appear the ad or ads would violate any Pennsylvania gaming regulations, if they simply appeared during the commercial break and weren’t specifically tailored in any way to appeal to minors. However, industry self-regulating “codes” do appear to forbid such advertising appearing during programs aimed at younger viewers.
In early 2020, the American Gaming Association published what it called “responsible marketing codes” for sports gambling. They were designed to go further than state regulations, taking a somewhat proactive approach to problem gambling. Earlier this month, FanDuel became the first mobile sports betting operator to partner with the AGA’s “responsible sports betting initiative.”
The AGA code that could apply here states:
“Sports wagering advertisements should not be placed in media outlets (including social media) that appeal primarily to those below the legal age for sports wagering, nor should they be displayed at an event venue where most of the audience at many of the events at the venue is reasonably expected to be below the legal age for sports wagering.”
PHL 17 isn’t a media outlet that appeals primarily to minors, but certain programming definitely does.
While Sabrina the Teenage Witch is clearly a show for adolescents, the live action series aired from 1996 to 2003. Anyone old enough to have watched the show back then would be of legal gambling age right now.
There are also animated versions, including one from the 1970s. There’s a recent spinoff series on Netflix called Chilling Adventures of Sabrina that kicked off in 2018.
One could potentially argue an old TV show, despite having the word “teenage” in it, is not one that technically appeals to current minors, but it’s a line that regulated operators probably shouldn’t play with as the online gambling industry continues to evolve in the U.S.