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State officials seemingly react to New York Times articles about sports betting

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A number of legislators have voiced concerns over sportsbook gaming promotions, following extensive coverage of them.

Since PASPA was overturned, the past four years have seen a seemingly unstoppable rollout of sports betting across the US.

However, The New York Times has claimed that a series of its articles has made senior legislators in multiple states reconsider their open embrace of the industry.

The newspaper cites recent actions of influential legislators in New York, which would suggest that the sports betting industry faces some pushback, namely on gaming promotions.

State Senator Pete Harckham introduced a bill, earlier this month, which gives power to the New York Gaming Commission to create rules limiting how much promotional credits sportsbooks can offer.

New York is not the only state to see a halt in enthusiasm over sports betting’s expansion. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly was initially keen to push through legalization in her state but is now seeking to revisit the law, saying it has seen “unintended consequences.”

In Kansas, lobbyists from gambling companies have allegedly “showered lawmakers money and gifts,” which has resulted in supposedly lax responsible gambling regulations. The Sunflower State allows for promotions such as risk-free wagers and free bets.

Kansas Representative Paul Waggoner commented: “Why on earth are we incentivizing these free giveaways?” when speaking about $43m in tax-free bets given out in the state. He further said: “I wish we would have known all this stuff before lawmakers voted on the package.”

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, gambling regulators have unexpectedly paused consideration of an application from Penn Entertainment due to concerns with its ‘controversy-courting’ media business Barstool Sports.

This controversy stems from a New York Times story that highlighted how its owner, David Portnoy, has been reported for sexual misconduct and racism, and previously filed for bankruptcy. Some state legislators are concerned about how Barstool targets a younger demographic of gamblers with this in mind.

For the moment, the Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville has seen its application for sports betting put on hold. It had previously hoped to launch in time for the Super Bowl next February.

Universities nationwide have voiced their concerns after the The New York Times published an article in November, detailing the ‘Caesarization’ of school campuses. The piece claimed that sportsbooks were deliberately targeting an underage demographic, a breach of responsible gaming standards.

In response to these criticisms, Michigan State University (MSU) held a meeting of faculty, administrators and students to discuss the issue. MSU has an $8.4m five-year deal with Caesars to promote gambling on campus. The meeting opined on whether the university should implement an ethics board to evaluate partnerships with sportsbooks in the future.

An MSU environmental economics professor, Satish Joshi, commented: “It puts MSU in a very poor light and basically argues that MSU is actively promoting gambling to students.”

A Connecticut Senator sent an open letter to Caesars Sportsbook, which has two deals with universities in the state. The letter states: “This potentially addictive activity, aimed at young people, some of whom are not of legal age to participate, is unconscionable."

Harckham cited reporting from the New York Times as a motivation for his bill. He said he still supported sports betting but that it needed to be more closely regulated, describing some of the industry’s promotions as ‘predatory.’

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