After a scandal-ridden few months that saw some of the UK’s betting heavyweights censured by the Advertising Standards Authority, the gambling industry has been told to expect some clarity on the use of promotions and affiliate sites by the end of 2017.
The ASA has said that the new guidelines – which will be developed by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) – had not been prompted by the UK’s current Gambling Review, but that they would run in tandem with it and complement it. In addition to guidance on affiliates, the CAP is set to release further recommendations on minimising harm to problem gamblers and on children and young adults in early- to mid-2018 respectively.
UK-facing operators have been demanding clarity on their compliance responsibilities for several months, but these calls became increasingly urgent in September after the ASA stepped in to ban a series of “offensive” affiliates ads relating to Ladbrokes, Sky Bet, Casumo and 888. The ads – which were apparently being run without the operators’ knowledge – suggested that a man had been able to fund his wife’s cancer treatment by betting with the brands.
“There were four that were banned last month where the gambling companies had relied on their affiliates and didn’t really know what was being done on their behalf,” ASA chairman Lord David Currie told Marketing Week in October. “They have learned their lesson from that. They were in a bad place because they were causing deep offence. Being tough on those sorts of ads is what the ASA can do.”
Following the decision, one of the implicated operators – Sky Bet – made the decision to close its affiliate programme entirely, citing “changing regulatory requirements” as a key factor. There have since been suggestions that the company could be hit with legal challenges from affiliates who say they are contractually entitled to the lifetime value of any customer they have acquired on behalf of the firm.
Speaking at this year’s EiG, Stefano Sbordoni, CEO and partner at Sbor- doni & Partners, said the success of a lawsuit could depend on whether an act of breach had ren- dered any previous operator-affiliate contracts invalid. “They will probably have to settle, that’s my estimation,” he said.