Key provider of regulatory intelligence across the global gambling industry, VIXIO GamblingCompliance has published a document with a deep view on policy trends affecting advertising in this sector. The text includes a list of key pending regulatory or legislative proposals to restrict advertising and also some observations on markets to watch.
Current global landscape shows regulatory pressure on gambling advertising increasingly becoming a common issue. However, there is no uniform set of restrictions that are applied to marketing activities. Most regulated jurisdictions at a minimum require that ads are not directed at minors or vulnerable players, linked to financial or sexual prowess, and include certain responsible gambling information. Over the past four years, however, there is a clear trend toward more specific restrictions that usually involve different approaches.
SITUATION IN EUROPE
Since 2019, all gambling advertising has been prohibited in Italy, with almost all advertising and sponsorship also now banned in Spain. National lottery games are exempted in both countries. In the UK, operators have agreed not to advertise immediately before, during or after televised sports events, unless after 9 pm. Similar legal restrictions now apply in Germany and the Netherlands, whereas operators cannot advertise until late at night in Portugal or Spain. Also in Spain, all welcome bonuses are prohibited under a 2020 advertising decree.
In terms of regulatory restrictions, discontent over gambling advertising continues to spread its tendrils eastward. Armenia and Georgia have proposed and enacted legislation respectively to introduce almost total bans on all forms of gambling advertising. Although the high-profile drama in Italy several years ago remains the brightest advertising flashpoint, activity in Eastern Europe demonstrates that in every country with a functioning gambling market there exists the risk of an advertising crackdown. Even in Western Europe, there are proposals to ban ads in Belgium, and both French and German regulators have been making uncomfortable noises about marketing. In the UK, the possibility of a seismic ban on sports sponsorship remains firmly on the agenda of campaigners. As more countries opt for restrictions, the variety of approaches paints an ever-more completed picture of marketing compliance across the continent. Georgia’s new laws, for example, allow for certain kinds of sports sponsorship, but ban all digital ads outside of an operator’s website, while Armenia’s proposed rules would only allow sports betting to be advertised in four star hotels and airports.
BANS AND CONCERN IN CANADA AND THE U.S.
Being effective on April 4th, 2022, new Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (Canada) standards for Internet gaming contain a prohibition on marketing communications that include “gambling inducements,” such as bonus offers. Ontario’s regulated market for online gambling will be different from those of U.S. states in many respects, with advertising and marketing being no exception. While televised, online and social media channels in many major U.S. markets are being bombarded with ads offering deposit matches, free bets and other bonuses, registered operators in Ontario will not be able to run advertisements that communicate any “gambling inducements, bonuses and credits,” with such offers instead only visible on the operators’ own websites. Ontario players can also receive direct marketing communications with bonus offers via email, social media and text only after giving their express consent via an opt-in process. Although seemingly influenced by broader restrictions on the marketing of inducements already in place in Australia and Spain, Ontario will also follow the likes of Indiana and New York in preventing use of the terms of “risk-free” or “free bet”, unless the offer truly is free to the consumer.
About the U.S., while legislators and regulators have yet to truly take action against the volume of sports betting advertising, beyond standard content regulation included in most laws and state regulations, the faint sounds of a backlash have begun to echo in some states. Colorado legislators have spoken publicly about looking into measures to curtail advertising amid public complaints in a highly competitive market which features the largest number of active operators in the U.S. In addition, Virginia legislators have pursued a bill that would restrict companies from cheekily twisting the state’s “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan into “Virginia is for Bettors,” in what would be the first formal legislative response to sports betting advertising, assuming that it is enacted before lawmakers adjourn in late-March. In a more significant move, three days before Super Bowl Sunday, New York’s Attorney General publicly warned companies against misleading marketing campaigns using devices like “risk-free” bets and deposit matches with exorbitant play through requirements, putting operators on notice that violators would hear from the state’s top law enforcement official. The aforementioned causes concern among online gaming operators in Canada and the United States, because there, as in Europe, it will be increasingly difficult to capture the attention, interest and investment of gamblers.