Any online gambling house must operate according to a multitude of rules and regulations. Some of them are established by the business environment and best practices in the market. Some are established by specific rules of iGambling license provided by regulatory bodies, associations, or other license providers. And there are also such rules that are provided for by the regulations of countries and blocs, which everyone must adhere to.
Some part of these provisions and regulations is soft, like, not mandatory to follow and obey while another part is pretty strict and can cause various kinds of penalties, both financial and criminal. In this article, we’re talking about adhering to gambling ad laws, exploring what they are, how they differ in specific countries, and what are the consequences of not adhering to them.
Importance of Compliance
Regulatory compliance in online gambling is, probably, the hugest part of the daily activity of any online and offline facility operating in the iGambling industry. There are a whole lot of various regulations that one must adhere to. To mention just a few, they are regulations, best practices, limitations, bans, provisions, and permissions concerning affiliate marketing, intellectual property rights, self-exclusion, auditing, fair play, game content, business continuity, legality, cryptocurrency and fiat money usage, social responsibility, limitations on accessibility, handling complaints, insider betting and gambling, record-keeping, bookkeeping, taxation, anti-fraud measures, KYC, licensing, gambler data protection, AML, and many others. Among all that, advertising standards for casinos are distinguished.
If a gambling venue does not adhere to compliance in the area of most part of the named ones, including online casino promotion laws, it is threatened to face various layers of consequences:
There are a lot of individual limitations and restrictions in each particular country and established by each particular regulatory body, whose regulations expand across the borders of just one country. Let’s review some vivid instances:
- The Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which is active for 14 European countries, defines a lot of details of cross-border casino advertising, such as which YouTube and other bloggers are subject to regulation under the Directive. For instance, those bloggers who have 0.5 million followers or more and do digital advertising of casinos, must be regulated in the Netherlands. In Italy, any video-sharing platform that infringes demands to adverts of casinos can be blocked by dedicated enforcement powers. Or it also defines, which share of profits casinos must invest in the activity of regulatory bodies to finance them (that is, casino owners must finance those bodies that limit their very business activity, which is an interesting fling).
- In Italy, it is mostly forbidden to make any advertising of gambling venues due to country-specific casino advertising rules with very few exceptions.
- In Sweden, it is illegal to advertise welcome bonuses as well as casino operators cannot offer them to players from this country.
- In the US, the legal landscape is very confusing and overlapping, sometimes, creating gray zones and sheer fields for various legal challenges in casino advertising, which are oftentimes disputed in courts of various jurisdictions. While some forms of iGambling are legal in some states, in others they are banned in total. In some, they are allowed with certain ‘buts’. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Nevada, for instance, have their online casinos and poker rooms fully legalized. Florida and California have banned any online casino activity, but that does not mean that a person from these states cannot visit some foreign website to start gambling (although, putting money there and withdrawing it in case of victory may be problematic because of financial limitations of their banks and other payment channels). A lot of states have not outlined the legal landscape about iGambling, so they are in the gray zone. In fact, in the US, about a dozen regulatory acts were adopted in the 20th and 21st centuries to define the iGambling legal landscape (with some being canceled, enacted, modified, reenacted, etc., thus, creating even more legal complications).
- In Ukraine, there is a partial ban on advertising, which means that compliance strategies for online casinos should take into account that any advertising targeting persons under 21 is prohibited in any public places, printed media, and transport. Ads are allowed on TV from 11 PM to 6 AM. Those print media, which are specialized gambling ones, can publish them limitlessly. Online ads are allowed where they aren’t seen by minors (closed Telegram groups would also do, for instance).
- In Iceland, any iGambling ads must be exclusively in the Icelandic language and clearly denote the commercial side of this activity (that is, that gamblers play at their own risk and may lose money, which won’t be returned to them; also, that this is not a way to regularly profit for an individual gamester). Also, only special places may carry physical ads of iGambling, such as hippodromes, casinos, and arcade centers.
- In Denmark and Estonia, it is not allowed in commercials of iGambling to invite people to come to play casino games or be engaged with them in any other matter. It also shouldn’t mislead that playing casino games for money is anyhow connected to increasing one’s financial stability or social status. That all must be taken into account during online casino marketing best practices for these countries. In Estonia, it is also a set of offline places, where iGambling ads can be placed (like seaports, airports, casinos, hotels, etc.)
- In Latvia and Moldova, it is not allowed to advertise iGambling anyhow, online and offline.
- In Lithuania, it is forbidden to indicate any information at all about gambling activity in ads except for the name of the facility, the legal form of its operation, and trademark (that would exclude the placement of any information about games, playing them, winnings, bonuses, or anything at all — only the name and logo, basically).
- In Belarus, which is one of the rogue countries, on par with Iran, North Korea, and Russia, surprisingly, iGambling and its adverts are not banned completely. It is allowed in Belarus to advertise on radio and TV between 10 PM and 7 AM. Basically, all other forms of ads in printed and online media are prohibited, as well as in a long list of physical places, where they can be seen by minors.
- In Poland, it is banned to ad anywhere except on the premises of gambling clubs, which reduces the effectiveness of such ads to people already in the know about gambling.
- In Germany and the Czech Republic, only lotteries, horseracing, and sports betting are allowed while online casinos cannot be promoted. Also, even within casinos, both online and offline, it is banned to promote any kind of casino games, including mentioning their kinds and names.
- In Slovakia, there is no point in trying to promote online venues since it is only allowed for brick-and-mortar establishments to advertise, and only within a 200-yard radius from them.
- In the Netherlands and Belgium, it is only allowed to submit adverts of casinos within certain hours of the day and it is strictly prohibited to promote not only the names of games or the nature of bonuses of casinos but also to tell or even hint that playing gambling games, one can improve own financial situation, social position, or solve personal problems. In Belgium, they also distinguish by the level of gambling license to define what advert is allowed, and which is not.
- In Ireland, it is only allowed to post results of lotteries and nothing more in the entire iGambling industry. Even ad of lotteries per se is not allowed — one can only say its results and that’s it.
Also, in addition to these named above international gambling marketing rules, there is a large issue of age restriction, which we’d like to discuss separately since it deserves attention on its own. This issue widely varies across the countries of our planet. The most common legal age to start gambling (hereinafter, gambling age) in most geos is 18 years old (which is also the age of being allowed to hear and see information and advertising about iGambling). However, there are instances of the gambling age being set at 16 (for instance, in such US states as Maine and Maryland) or 17 (in the US state of Illinois). Yet, such low minimum ages do apply for only some kinds of iGambling, not all of them. Also, 16 is the minimum gambling age for some gambling activities in the UK (solely for scratch cards and lotteries) but other types of iGambling are prohibited until 18. The same goes for Estonia (16 for some kinds of gambling) but to specifically play in online casinos for real money, a gambler in this country must be 21 and older.
There is a multitude of countries with gambling age of 18. To name a few: Canada, Australia, most countries of the EU, Azerbaijan, Myanmar, South Africa, the Philippines, Argentina, and Chile… The list is large, including around 100 names. But this does not mean all people of 18 are automatically allowed to gamble in online casinos, which one has to take into account during the process of casino marketing compliance: they may not be allowed to do specific activities, like betting for money in slots or other casino games until older ages, like 20/21.
Less common it is to establish the gambling age at 19 and 20. It is 19 in South Korea, Canada (varies depending on the province), and the US (varies depending on the state). Age 20 is relevant for New Zealand, Sweden, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, and Nigeria.
The rest of the world, where iGambling is not prohibited at all, mostly sticks with 21.
The world’s highest threshold of age to start gamble is in Greece (23), Portugal (25), and Georgia (25). What’s exciting to know is that the world’s minimum gambling ages are 13 in the Dominican Republic and just 5 in Malawi. So, how about targeting online adverts to 5-year-old kiddos from Malawi, one of the poorest (if not the most) countries in the world? 😉 It is unlikely that they have even heard what Internet is, not mentioning the fact that they probably never held a smartphone in their hands (and, most likely, never will).
Finally, we must say that online gaming advertising guidelines concerning age are non-existing for such countries as Papua New Guinea, Federal States of Micronesia, Andorra, Vatican City, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mongolia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Tunisia, South Sudan, and Anguilla. In all of the named, there is no such thing as minimal gambling age, which means all people are automatically allowed to be involved in any iGambling activity without limitations. Although, what truly matters in these geos is that it may be unethical or unconventional to gamble in the first place because of religion, internal politics, or traditions. Or there simply might not be a good Internet connection (even if it is present) to gamble in online venues.
Key Regulatory Bodies
Here is a list of gambling regulatory authorities that work in different regions of the planet. They oversee and regulate not only advertising per se but also other aspects of iGambling (such as sports betting, horseracing, regular and instant lotteries, lottery-like games, such as Keno, and everything rest that belongs to iGambling notion in the global world):
- Alderney Gambling Control Commission. It provides regional casino marketing laws and gambling laws for those entities who want to work under its license. gamblingcontrol.org.
- AGA or The American Gaming Association, with the official website americangaming.org. Although a lot of other acts and laws regulate iGambling and its various manifestations in the USA at the federal and state levels, this organization adds more to the country’s iGambling regulations and advice.
- TNGA (The National Gambling Authority) in France (anj.fr).
- Australian Communications and Media Authority (acma.gov.au).
- Belgian Gaming Commission: gamingcommission.be.
- Canadian Gaming Association: canadiangaming.ca.
- eCOGRA. This organization was established in the UK in 2003 but it is not destined solely for the UK; no, its main office is there but it works for international certification and oversight of iGambling businesses, including testing, inspection, and jurisdictional approvals. It’s an independent body that tries to regulate global iGambling (mostly through self-regulation and soft oversight), taking into account local regulations. ecogra.org.
- European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA). As it is obvious from the name, it works for the EU members and some other individual countries that operate in Europe if they are not EU members (egba.eu).
- US Federal Trade Commission. That is yet another body that imposes iGambling regulations in the US (ftc.gov).
- Gibraltar Regulatory Authority (gra.gi).
- International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR). This is a voluntary organization, certificate of which means mostly reputation addition, the same as eCOGRA (iagr.org).
- Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission: gamblingcommission.im.
- Kansspelautoriteit. It is for operators in the Netherlands’ market of iGambling. kansspelautoriteit.nl.
- Malta Gaming Authority (MGA): mga.org.mt.
- Nevada Gaming Control Board: This is only applicable to Nevada State, the US (which is the host of the world’s most famous site of casinos, Las Vegas). gaming.nv.gov.
- New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement: nj.gov/oag/ge. Another local operator and lawmaker — for the state of New Jersey, the US.
- Spelinspektionen (for Sweden, spelinspektionen.se).
- UK Gambling Commission. It sets laws for all the countries and territories that are included in the Commonwealth of the UK (which comprises 56 countries as of 2023) unless specific territories have their own regulations on the matter. gamblingcommission.gov.uk.
Common Advertising Restrictions
We’ve spoken about individual instances of advert restrictions above in the article. And now let’s bring them to a holistic picture. Online casino advertising regulations do vary across countries. Although, they all can be boiled down to some core points. If we define categories of restrictions in broad strokes, these are such:
- License requirement: any entity wishing to advertise online gambling services in some territory and/or jurisdiction in overwhelming number of cases must hold a valid license issued by respective body or entity that establishes local or global gambling advertising rules. This might include both domestic and foreign operators targeting the respective markets.
- Age restrictions: one must adhere to the legal gambling age, which is established in this territory/jurisdiction. So since advertisements should not target or appeal to individuals under the legal gambling age, this must be a part of minors protection policy.
- Responsible advertising: advertisements must promote responsible gambling practices and should not be misleading or deceptive. They should not encourage excessive gambling or problem gambling behavior, which also mean that they shall not incline people to gamble to solve their financial issues, promising quick/large winnings out of thin air, which is not true in most cases.
- Social responsibility: advertisers are expected to promote responsible gambling practices and provide information on gaming helplines and resources for those with addiction.
- Prohibited content: advertisements must not exploit vulnerable individuals based on their gender, age, income, social status, job position, religion, etc. It also means in many cases explicit content.
- Data protection: advertisers should comply with data protection regulations and ensure the privacy of user and financial data.
- Advertising time restrictions: there are specific time restrictions for advertising gambling services on television, Internet, and radio, specifically and mostly to reduce exposure to young and vulnerable audiences.
- Casino ads legal restrictions must take into account the prohibition of iGambling in particular geos. For instance, it is absolutely inexpedient to advertise in these countries, which have a total ban on casinos and any other form of iGambling, such as the Marshall Islands, Kosovo, Turkey, most Arabic countries, Maldives, China, Thailand, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Somalia, Sudan, Cuba, Brazil, and some others.
- If applicable, provincial/state regulations apply (when they differ from the ones on the level of the entire country). This is often the case with Canada and the US.
Casino advertising case studies mainly focus on one or several items from this list:
- Data-driven marketing campaigns of local and regional levels
- The issue of full compliance with the regulations of particular geo
- Improvement of customer acquisition and retention rate
- Brand building due to legal and strong marketing.
Let’s consider a few successful case studies.
- OneCasino was submitted for popunder ads of the Affiliate Valley Company which has its own affiliate network. As a result of campaign that was run on the New Zealand market, the ROI of the campaign was 286%.
- Another popunder ad campaign was launched by AffSecret Company through its network ClickAdilla for one of the Thai casinos, which had an effect of 702% ROI for one of the campaigns.
- A huge example: the worldwide-known network of hotels, resorts, and casinos MGM has started a campaign on Instagram Reels to improve brand awareness. That led to a x6.1 brand awareness increase in the period and an 8.1% improvement in click-through on their ads on other platforms.
- The AdsFox ad company has several cases for different clients. The first one is for Meridianbet betting and gambling facility, working in Tanzania. Through PPC campaign, they had 126 thousand clicks, 100 new registrations, 3.79% CTR, and 3.32 million impressions. Another campaign was also for Tanzanian company SlotPesa, which through another PPC campaign brought 2.43% CTR, 20 thousand clicks, and 0.82 million impressions.
- For an offline venue named Desert Diamond Casino West Valley (Arizona), the advertising company Lane Terra Lever organized an ad campaign through multiple channels to promote the opening of a new venue. As a result, the 10,000 capacity of the opening night was fully booked, the ROI of media dollars was 100%, and the brand awareness was increased by 33%.
- CasinoRewards casino launched a CPA + email campaign with the help of richards.com in Canadian market and received 158% ROI for their first-time depositors’ campaign.
Adapting Advertising Strategies
Here are some clever insights into how online casinos can adapt advertising strategies to effectively meet specific regulations of various geos:
- Research and understand local regulations thoroughly. If needed, hire an expert on local regulations.
- Provide tailored content to a specific geo, making sure its fits specific requirements of channel of advertising (such as Facebook, Telegram, TV, radio, etc.). Make sure to avoid using imagery or language that may be offensive or inappropriate in a particular region.
- Localize your adverts well. Simple translation may not be the case while localization is always better.
- Hire or outsource a compliance team with experts in all geos you’re presented in.
- Set up effective procedures to control iGambling advertising regulations, such as age verification, responsible gaming messaging, tracking of time of appearance of ads, data & financial privacy, and in-game messaging with important information.
- Conduct advertising business in transparency & honesty while simultaneously educating one’s players.
Legal Consequences of Non-Compliance
Reputational, financial, and especially, legal consequences of non-compliance with advertising restrictions for betting sites can manifest in real life in a broad spectrum of issues, such as:
- damage to company’s reputation and its image
- cancellation of insurance of its business processes or significant increase in its cost
- stained reputation of its stakeholders, owners, and shareholders
- loss of customers and revenues (fully or partially)
- diminished brand equity, competitive advantage, and operability
- appearance of recovery costs that may be needed to make up for the mistakes of the past (if business survives and will want to restore its operation)
- increased regulatory scrutiny in the future, which means that regulatory bodies may (and most certainly, will) intensify their oversight and audit activities over the business of the company in the future, leading to increasing compliance costs, administrative burden, and more frequent stops in work due to visits of various inspectors
- payments for moral and financial losses to suffered parties
- damage to company’s workers morale, which increases employee turnover
- operational disruption, up to complete halt of all operations
- finally, the worst one: regulatory sanctions, license suspension, lawsuits, and criminal charges under applicable law of a particular country, territory, or another geo, which may completely sink the company.
It is essential to operate within the bounds of the law and maintain a positive reputation. Full compliance allows business owners to avoid all or most of the above mentioned negative consequences of the breach of laws. Consecutively, the best practices of compliance generally derive from the tips for adapted advertising strategies that we mentioned above.
The key takeaway from those is that casino’s team must coherently monitor the execution of rules in each geo to the last letter of the law. That is, one shall consult one’s compliance team on all possible issues and questions. That compliance team must also provide compliance monitoring, reporting, and communication with various compliance bodies. It is also the team’s responsibility to build relations with regulatory and compliance control bodies in each applicable jurisdiction. To do that, the team has to conduct compliance monitoring, training of team members, keep in touch with experts on the legal landscape of the geos a gambling house works in to monitor changes, track & monitor the performance of advertising efforts of the company from the prospect of view of compliance. Only rigidly sticking with this 24/7 can make sure a casino will not be fined or sued.
We hope that the casino advertisement compliance tips you’ve found in this article will be of significant help to your company when building the advert strategy and landscaping compliance processes within your company. For hand-on experience and deep insight that always has a finger on the market pulse, address to BoomAff team of specialists, which are glad to successfully navigate you among the icebergs of iGambling advertising regulations.