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NFL says Super Bowl viewers will only see 3 sports betting ads during broadcast

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                                Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Justin Watson is tackled by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Brandon Stephens during the second half of the AFC Championship NFL football game.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Justin Watson is tackled by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Brandon Stephens during the second half of the AFC Championship NFL football game.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. >> Advertisements for sports betting continue to flood the airwaves, but the NFL said today that viewers will see only three such ads during the Super Bowl broadcast next month.

David Highhill, the NFL’s general manager for sports betting, told reporters there will be one sports betting ad right before kickoff and two others during the game.

The league has set limits on in-game sports betting advertising. But sportsbooks have only bought three such ads for broadcast right before and during the Super Bowl broadcast, fewer than the maximum allowed, NFL spokesperson Alex Riethmiller said.

“We’ve put some policies in place to limit the amount of advertising for sports betting that happens in our live games,” Highhill said. “It’s roughly one ad per quarter. All told, less than 5% of all in-game ads are sports betting ads.”

League officials and the leader of a problem gambling treatment group spoke during an online forum about the NFL’s first Super Bowl in Las Vegas, the nation’s gambling capital. The Kansas City Chiefs will try to defend their title against the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 11.

The league was one of many professional sports leagues that fought the legalization of sports betting, largely on grounds that it could undermine fans’ perception of the integrity of the games. Now that sports betting has been legal for six years, it is the league’s top priority to maintain that public confidence, said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy.

Part of that effort includes “being mindful of the tenor, volume and saturation of sports betting advertising and the degree with which we’re integrating that into the live game,” Highhill said.

He said the league has been surveying fans since 2019 on their attitudes toward and participation in legal sports betting. While he did not provide statistics, he said the NFL has seen an increase in those who say they like and participate in sports betting, and a decrease in those who don’t.

The topic of sports betting advertising has been contentious for years. Almost as soon as New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case in 2018 clearing the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports betting (38 currently do, along with Washington, D.C.), sportsbooks flooded the airwaves, print and digital outlets with ads for sports betting.

That led to complaints from some customers, including recovering compulsive gamblers who said the constant enticements to bet make it harder for them to resist doing so. Lawmakers weighed in as well, threatening to impose restrictions on such advertising if sportsbooks could not rein themselves in.

Even the head of the American Gaming Association, Bill Miller, warned at a Dec. 2021 sports betting forum that the level of such ads was becoming “an unsustainable arms race.”

In April 2023, most of the nation’s major professional sports leagues, plus the media companies Fox and NBCUniversal, created an alliance to voluntarily ensure that sports betting advertising is done responsibly and does not target minors.

Highhill said the NFL tends to get blamed for sports betting ads that are beyond its reach.

“There’s times when we’re held accountable for ads that are not running in our games, that are running on other sports programming or sports radio throughout the week,” he said. “Unfortunately, we can’t control all ads everywhere.”

Also during today’s press conference, Jeff Miller highlighted integrity measures the league has instituted, including training more than 17,000 league personnel on what is and is not permitted regarding gambling; partnerships with third-party data and monitoring companies, and disciplinary measures for those found to have violated league rules concerning gambling.

He said Las Vegas has proven itself to be a competent city in its dealings with the league, including the relocation of the Raiders to Las Vegas, and the recent NFL draft that was held there.

Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, said a $6.2 million donation from the NFL in 2021 to help expand gambling treatment programs has helped drive “hundreds of thousands” of people with gambling concerns or problems to the group’s website or to the 1-800-GAMBLER help line.

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