Gaming regulators, consumer protection agencies, and other governmental bodies strive to ensure that all such campaigns are not misleading, do not target minors, promote responsible gaming, protect players, and comply with all other laws. Casinos often want to quickly launch a new campaign, but regulators require time to review new concepts. Thus the dilemma.
First the good news. Gaming regulators in many jurisdictions have eliminated or reduced preapproval requirements for land-based casino advertising and promotions. Instead, only notification is required, with the right to suspend or require revision if they believe a campaign runs afoul of relevant laws or regulations. Obviously it would be disastrous for a casino to suspend or revise a promotion that has commenced or that has been advertised. A fix? If in doubt about legality, ask the regulator. Most will provide a non-binding response which will help alleviate any looming concern about the need to revise or shut down a promotion.
However, this “asking” process, along with the required submissions, can become unwieldy for nationwide or international promotions. Additionally, exact gaming compliance requirements vary widely, even with respect to responsible gaming and marketing to minors. A good example of this is the rule in the U.K. regarding individuals who are legally of gambling age but appear to be under 25. Those individuals are permitted to be featured in a marketing communication in the operator’s casino or on its website, but not anywhere else such as social media.
Furthermore, advertising and promotional offerings in each country are also regulated by a multitude of non-gaming agencies. For example, some casino promotions may be subject to laws regarding sweepstakes or skilled games which are administered by consumer protection agencies. Such laws vary from state to state, province to province, and country to country, and govern both advertising and operation. Some jurisdictions prohibit sweepstakes entirely, and some require registration and payment of fees.
U.S. operators have to worry about laws including the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act, the CAN-SPAM Act, and other laws administered by the Federal Trade Commission. In Great Britain, as another example, gambling operators are not only subject to the gambling laws and licensing conditions thereunder, they are also subject to U.K. codes of practice including those regarding broadcast advertising and those regarding non-broadcast advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport weighs in as well.
And what about regulated Internet and mobile gaming? As you likely guessed, creating and implementing promotions that are innovative and responsive to a player’s preferences, yet still compliant with the sometimes inconsistent laws and regulations of numerous gaming jurisdictions, is exponentially harder with regulated iGaming. Pre-approval is required for advertising and promotions in many regulated iGaming jurisdictions, and the specifics of submissions fluctuate. While all U.S. regulated iGaming jurisdictions prohibit sending marketing materials to excluded persons, compliance obligations within the U.S. differ, and contrast with those outside the U.S. The licensing and regulation of marketing affiliates is another disparate area, and has caused much confusion. Speaking of confusion, jurisdictions have divergent laws and procedures regarding the use and deductibility of an important marketing tool – promotional credits. The list could go on…and on… Then there are the non-gaming laws and regulations discussed above, along with a few more regarding Internet marketing, especially in reference to privacy and children.
WHAT ABOUT SOCIAL CASINOS?
A discussion regarding the marketing and promotional activities of social casinos must be divided into three operator groups – purely social gaming operators, regulated land-based operators that want to use social gaming as a marketing tool, and regulated iGaming operators seeking to do the same. The purely social operator is subject to the myriad of non-gaming laws and rules previously discussed, but not to gaming laws and regulations. On the other hand, the casino hosting “free play” or other social games on their website to drive customers to their brick and mortar casino is also subject to the non-uniform gaming regulatory requirements just discussed, plus a few more. Notably, some jurisdictions require identical odds and percentage payouts for games that are played on both an operator’s website and casino floor. The rationale is to prevent a transitioning player being misled by “loose” free games. Not surprisingly, certain jurisdictions also apply this requirement to the third operator group, regulated iGaming operators hosting free play sites. Likewise, some jurisdictions with time limits on real money play count free play toward the time limit. In a final example, New Jersey iGaming regulations provide that social games requiring payment for specific game features may not be fundable or accessible from a patron’s Internet gaming account.
Gaming operators deserve kudos for the successful campaigns that have been launched – including loyalty card programs – despite the maze of laws and requirements. There have been great marketing successes and very few compliance breakdowns. But creativity has been stymied, and compliance costs are considerable.
Is there a solution?
Yes. Although casino advertising, marketing, and promotional activities are governed by numerous non-gaming agencies worldwide, inconsistent gaming laws and regulations have been the primary inhibitor of tactile and economically reasonable cross-jurisdictional advertising, marketing and promotional efforts. The only remedy is one most readers have heard before – uniform gaming regulatory standards. As the focus of the gaming industry becomes more and more Internet and mobile based, modernizing our regulatory approach to mirror the seamless interconnectivity of the Internet is necessary for both operators and regulators. In fact, it is essential to the economic growth and success of the gaming industry. With uniformity, operators can implement marketing and promotional activities more quickly and less expensively cross-jurisdictionally. With uniformity, new suppliers, with fresh marketing and promotional ideas and products, will have inducement to enter regulated markets. With uniformity, compliance can be more easily achieved and monitored, and player protection concerns can be clearly and unequivocally addressed. Push-pull will become push-push.
THINKING UNIFORMITY CAN NEVER HAPPEN? I was a nay-sayer. Now I believe it must happen, and our help is needed. Let’s continue to be part of the “push.” so our advertising, marketing and promotional efforts achieve the needed “push-push”.
*Reprinted from September 2016 issue of G3 Newswire/Interactive –How to Co-Exist Newswire Interactive.pdf