Calls for Responsible Advertising
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has called for safe and responsible methods of marketing by operators in Europe amid the ongoing pandemic. The new guidelines released by the association seek to tackle to the emerging problem of operators using the outbreak of COVID-19 as a marketing tool to promote the services they offer.
Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in Europe became more serious, there has been a drastic increase in the number of operators looking to capitalize on the pandemic to increase profits. The EGBA has set out, in no uncertain terms, that using the life-threatening disease to sell products is unacceptable.
Under the new guidelines, operators on the continent will no longer be allowed to use coronavirus or official statements that reference the virus in their advertising content. There is also going to be an embargo on advertising based on any developments to come during the outbreak. The EGBA has said that this is to promote safe and responsible gambling.
The words safe and responsible are key here, as many operators have been portraying the pandemic and subsequent lockdown as opportune moments to gamble online. There have also been incidences of operators claiming that gambling is the solution to the social and financial problems people are facing right now.
The EGBA also made it clear that just because there are unusual times, the usual safeguarding of consumers should not be affected. For example, operators should maintain their protection of players by clearly labeling products as age-restricted. They should also clearly point players to gambling help hotlines and should maintain services such as self-exclusion and deposit limits.
Another target that the EGBA believes should be aimed for by operators during the pandemic is to effectively monitor unusual activity on customers’ accounts. Such monitoring is essential to help prevent problem gambling by taking precautions and intervening when it is necessary.
The latter target is nothing new, but the EGBA saw fit to reinforce this point because of the current state of affairs and because of how certain operators have been behaving in recent weeks.
In a statement, the EGBA reiterated its commitment to ensuring that standards do not slip during the coronavirus outbreak. The association has made it clear that they hope that all players in the online gambling market stick to these proposals, to protect players during these uncertain times.
Support in Europe
The new guidelines that the EGBA has published have received widespread support from gambling authorities scattered across Europe. Operator associations in the UK, France, Germany, Portugal, and Sweden to name a few have all come out in support of the proposals.
There has been a notable reaction to advertising that uses COVID-19 in Malta, where the regulatory authority the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has reminded licensees in the country to be responsible when it comes to marketing during the coming weeks.
The MGA made it clear that many will be in a period of turmoil as a result of the widespread lockdowns that are occurring across Europe, and as such, are in a vulnerable position. The MGA says that this should not be exploited by unscrupulous operators and that any mention of the disease in any marketing will be considered a breach of licensing regulations in the country.
To clarify the kind of advertising that it deems unacceptable, the MGA released some guidelines for the coming weeks. The authority has stated that any advertisements that suggest that gambling is some sort of solution to problems people are facing will be in breach of regulations.
Additionally, any marketing broadcasts must not encourage players to behave antisocially, nor offer any solutions to educational or professional problems.
A Malta-based company that develops online slot games, Play’n go has also come out to condemn advertising practices that seek to profit from the pandemic. The company has publicly criticized those that have used its content and games to promote their services that capitalize on the outbreak.
Whilst the company did not publicly name any of the operators that had been working in such a nefarious but did say in no uncertain terms that such behavior is unacceptable. Play’n Go has stated that it expects its customers to act in a socially responsible manner. Whilst most of the operators using its services do just this, there are some acting irresponsibly.
“Play’n Go strongly condemns anyone seeking to profit from the pandemic, and we ask that immediate steps are taken to discontinue any such activities and reserve the right take additional measures to make sure this happens.”
Elsewhere in Europe, the Dutch regulator, the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) has announced its plans to financially penalize operators that use the novel coronavirus as a way to promote any services or products.
The KSA has said that any operator that uses COVID-19 in their marketing strategy will be liable to receive a fine of at least €250,000, which is an increase of 25% or €50,000 on the usual minimum fine that operators face if they are found to be in breach of the licensing regulations.
This increased fine does not only apply to licensed operators in the country, but also to the unlicensed land-based operators, as well as online content sites like review companies and affiliates.
Importantly, it must be noted that the figure of €250,000 is just the baseline fine, and the amount that anyone found to be in breach of the rules could pay may be substantially higher based on the content of the advertisement.
With the havoc that the novel coronavirus has been causing to gambling operators’ revenues over recent weeks, it is likely that many companies are seeking to chisel out a new niche in this altered landscape. Using the coronavirus to market services and products is iGaming operators’ method of ensuring their profits are not affected.
The new guidelines, however, have clearly set out the need to act in a moral way, rather than one that is purely profit-driven. These guidelines from the EBGA have been applauded widely in the industry and should help to prevent companies from benefitting from a tragedy.