Unibet Advertising Slip Up Lands Them in Hot Water
The Australian authorities have issued a fine of $25,000 against Unibet for violating the gambling advertising standards of the New South Wales Betting & Racing Act. Unibet, which is itself a subsidiary of the Kindred Group, purchased an Australian operator named Betchoice many years ago with the purpose of breaking into the Australian market. It is under the Betchoice brand that the violations appear to have been committed, and on the 15th December, the Sydney Downing Centre local court ruled that the betting company should pay AU$25,000 in fines to the commission.
Unibet and their subsidiary Betchoice entered the Australian market in late 2014, and since then the conduct of both brands has been completely in line with the stringent regulations imposed by the local authorities. However, they have become a bit lackluster with the methods used promoting their gambling promotion products. Especially the new customer welcome bonuses, at times the rhetoric and use of language used in these advertisements have been in violation of the strict regulatory rules surround gambling inducement in Australia. In 2018, the law was amended in Australia, becoming even more strict, and essentially made the coercion or inducement of gambling illegal in all gambling advertisement.
Unibet’s subsidiary brand Betchoice appears to have violated these strict rules on two occasions. After they were found to be in violation of the new restrictions on gambling advertisement, the NSW Liquor & Gaming board decided they should pay a five-figure penalty to the courts. The two separate advertisements which appeared in late 2018 are clearly a lack of judgment from the Betchoice marketing team. The first violation which appeared in the Canberra Times in November 2018 was in explicit violation of the regulatory rules in New South Wales. The first promotion read, “Bet $20, play with $100”. The second instance of the rules being violated was featured on Unibet’s website, it read, “Earn $50 Cash for EACH Friend You Refer!”.
Regulator Taking Tough Stance on “Gambling Inducement”
Australian regulators have been taking a stand against the unethical side of casino advertisements in recent months. In the crackdown they have issued fines totaling over AU$1,000,000 and are desperately trying to force the bookmakers and casinos to abandon their aggressive marketing tactics. Reigning in such powerful entities has not been easy, and the endless legal disputes, court battles, and public squabbling has been taxing on the operational efficiency of organizations like the New South Wales Liquor & Gaming Board. But given the importance of this issue, it is proper and right that it is given the attention and seriousness it deserves.
Bookmakers & casinos have a very important role to play in the responsible promotion of their own products. Very often the rules are bent or pushed to the limit of what is deemed acceptable, and that is the job of the control commission to step in and prevent further violations. Often, advertisements are misleading, they entice a vulnerable section of society, or they oversell the product in a way that removes all the notion of risk. Coercing customers into a false sense of security is a classic marketing tactic in casino advertising, and reigning in this irresponsible behavior is necessary to preserve the longevity of the industry.
We all know that casino & sports betting is an activity that can be incredibly fun and enjoyable for everybody involved. The products do not need to be aggressively marketed for people to consume them, but in an age of increasing competition, it is becoming more important to gain more exposure for the operators. In order to clear up any confusion, the bookmakers that are marketing products for betting or gambling purposes in Australia must adhere to the certain conditions regarding advertising inducement of gambling services, they are defined as follows:
includes any inducement to participate, or participate frequently, in any gambling activity (including an inducement to open a betting account)–Press Release, New South Wales Regulatory Commission
The important differentiation that has to be clarified here is the different conditions that are deemed acceptable when marketing gambling services to existing customers, or just out in the public domain. Bookmakers are able to make offers in a more direct manner when they are addressing people who have created an account on their platform. This can be in the form of pop-ups, email marketing, or any other such medium. But when the marketing is being done in a public forum such as a newspaper, the general consensus, and opinion of the regulators is it should be toned down dramatically and be less inducing to the prospering of gambling.
The New South Wales Gambling Commission noted in their report of the incident that the responsibility of gambling advertisement lies with the bookmaker. Operators are required to ensure that the advertisements are in compliance with the state regulations, if the advertisements are being marketed at customers in the New South Wales territory then they must be in full compliance with the local laws.
Inducements towards gambling are a very serious issue for the societal health of the communities in Australia. Coercing and over-selling the plaudits of gambling is known to increase the risk of gambling harm, and is generally considered an irresponsible practice. Operators that have been caught breaking these strict laws can now face fines up to AU$110,000 per violation. In addition, the company officials responsible for promoting the gambling products in such a way can be criminally liable and have charges brought against them personally.