PGCB Bans Use Of Term ‘Free Bet’ From PA Sportsbook Marketing

Written By Corey Sharp on March 15, 2023 - Last Updated on July 12, 2023
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Days before March Madness begins, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is cracking down on operators through responsible gambling practices. The PGCB is banning the term “free bet” in any PA sports betting marketing material across the state.

Pennsylvania joins Ohio and newly launched Massachusetts as other states to ban the term.

Most PA sportsbooks previously pivoted off ‘free bet’ term

Most platforms in Pennsylvania have stopped using the term “free bet.” Now, terms such as “bonus bets” and “no sweat bet” are often used.

Douglas Harbach, Director of Communications for the PGCB, told Legal Sports Report:

“There were a small number which are still using the terminology in promotional material and advertising and we requested that they refrain from that term in future advertising and promotions,” Harbach said.

PGCB Deputy Director of Communications Richard McGarvey told PlayPennyslvania the consistency of language is a big deal to the PGCB.

“Some patrons could have misconstrued the language and we felt that was a concern for us,” McGarvey said. “Additionally, some operators stopped using that terminology and we wanted it to be consistent across the board.”

So in the event that an operator does break the rule, the PGCB’s Office of Enforcement Counsel brings the issue to the board with a punishment. The PGCB has final say on what the punishment is, but often moves forward with what the Office of Enforcement Counsel brings them.

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Terms PA operators must follow

The PGCB asked PA sportsbooks in an email last Friday to remove certain terms from any marketing material that infers a promotional offer is free. Some of those terms include:

  • Free bet
  • Risk-free bet
  • Free play

Advertisement and marketing materials must meet the following criteria:

  • Not be described as free unless the promotion, bonus or credit is free. If the player has to risk or lose their own money or if there are conditions attached to their own money, the offer much clearly disclose those terms and shall not be described as free.
  • Not be described as risk-free if the player needs to incur any loss or risk their own money to use or withdraw winnings from the risk-free bet.

The PGCB does not completely restrict sportsbooks from using the term “free” on marketing materials. Operators may use the term if players do not have to risk their own money.

Ohio has issued heavy fines for sportsbook violations

Since the rule is new, it’ll be interesting to see how the PGCB moves forward should there be any infractions.

Ohio has issued significant fines for operators that have failed to cooperate with the rules. The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) fined DraftKings Sportsbook $150,000 for using the term “free bets.”

Ohio also fined Caesars Sportsbook and BetMGM Sportsbook for similar violations.

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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp is the Lead Writer at PlayPennsylvania bringing you comprehensive coverage of sports betting and gambling in Pennsylvania. Corey is a 4-for-4 Philly sports fan and previously worked as a writer and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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