Release Date: 2020-08-05
The world of iGaming used to be a very attractive prospect when it comes to advertising. The entire industry relies on some sort of marketing to keep the momentum going. Such a high demand for exposure has led to the formation of highly competitive agencies looking to one-up the opposition if only to grab an extra percentage of the market shares. Those days are slowly coming to an end. The advertising guidelines are changing, and they are possibly putting an end to numerous standard practices within the niche.

Player Centric Policies and New Advertising Guidelines

Regulated gambling markets from key regions have always been subject to predatory marketing tactics. It was only to be expected. High competition often leads main players to stray off the white hat path in search of better results. While such practices were rarely ever allowed, they were somewhat tolerated by most national gambling authorities.

However, recently we’ve seen a complete paradigm change in core European regions. Online gambling as a whole was placed under a microscope after it became apparent that predatory advertising was building momentum.

The objective of the game was no longer to keep the markets somewhat moderated, but to protect the player. As soon as that happened, this entire niche of advertising changed.

The Pendulum Swings the Other Way

Truth be told, the iGaming industry was far from perfect in terms of ethical business practices. Advertisers went out of their way to attract new players, often resorting to grey or even black hat tactics.

It wasn’t uncommon for minors to be targeted, as well as other risk groups among players. However, no one really expected the regulatory bodies to come down on the advertisers as hard as they did. Of course, not all markets saw the same type of crackdowns, but the core European ones definitely did.

The United Kingdom was arguably the most affected. With the United Kingdom Gambling Commission commandeering the policymaking  within the country, it wasn’t long before the UK gambling market was presented with a new national strategy.

As expected, the reduction of risk gambling and the protection of players were at the very core of the newly presented policy. Such a sudden change within the industry was all the wind certain UK MPs needed to go on a crusade against gambling advertising.

Confusion in the Parliament

Long before the UKGC started working on the new policy, the commission was locked in a perpetual tug of war between the advertisers and industry leaders on one side and zealous policymakers on the other. As soon as the new national strategy was presented, a group of MPs within the UK’s parliament banded together to form an anti-gambling lobbying group of sorts. The group All Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm (GRH APPG) and represents a non-partisan entity, which removes most of the political connotations behind its formation.

Their goal? A complete ban on advertising of anything gambling related both online and on TVs across the United Kingdom.

Needless to say, the advertising community within the UK was quick to characterize such demands as unrealistic and downright ridiculous. The Advertising Association claims that blanked bans on advertising are a massive overkill, especially considering that only around 8% of players fall within the risk category in the United Kingdom.

Additionally, this entity has reminded the GRH APPG that it is constantly working with UKGC on forming new regulations and adapting the existing policy to meet the needs of the new national strategy.

Worldwide Implications

 The situation in the United Kingdom represents an extreme case of restrictive advertising policies trying to make their way into regulations. Other key European markets, such as that of Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, and others, are not there yet.

However, policies focusing on player protection are growing in popularity across all developed markets. Some of these regulated gambling spaces have already taken a cue from the UK when it to different policies. There is a small but still significant chance that restrictive advertising regulations become the norm across the entire region of Europe.

Further Complications

As if things weren’t dire enough, the newly developing pandemic is also proving to be a disruptive force. We have to touch back on the United Kingdom once again as the UKGC has recognized the negative impacts of the ongoing lockdown on players.

With more and more people staying indoors, there has been an influx of new players. That being said, more people are susceptible to advertising, which has prompted the UKGC to further clamp down on advertising practices  and ad campaigns within the online gaming niche.

Growing Resistance

If we exclude advertisers who are actively targeting risk players as a group, the rest of the iGaming advertising is generally done in-line with most ethical standards. This majority is slowly forming a resistance front that is approaching regulatory bodies with founded criticism as well as constructive solutions.

This is a phenomenon that is emerging in most regulated markets within Europe and elsewhere. As much as this global player-centric regulatory trend has good intentions at its core, the pendulum of regulations has swung so far into the extreme that it’s putting legitimate advertising businesses in jeopardy.

The current situation across the world, as horrible as it is, has opened up new opportunities for iGaming operators. This means that advertising is on the rise as well, which will only prolong this perpetual struggle between regulations and the industry.

It’s not too farfetched to expect further restrictions as well as limitations in the near future. We are witnessing a shift in many industries where remote work is becoming the norm. As a result, more and more people will stay at home, thus increasing their exposure to all kinds of advertisement channels.

The real question is whether we’ll see an equilibrium of regulations and SOPs, which is arguably the best possible scenario at this very moment. -

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