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Operators of the Ukrainian gambling market to adopt the European Advertising Code

Viktoriya Zakrevskaya
International communications consultant, technologist

Self-organization and social responsibility play an important role in the Western culture of business organization. The gambling business is no exception: gambling operators unite into large specialized associations, and one of the most important components of their joint activities is establishing a set of internal regulations in the form of codes with the norms that are voluntarily adopted by members of such associations.

A relevant example is the work of operators within the Betting and Gambling Council (BGC, UK) and the European Gambling and Betting Association (EGBA, EU) on new advertising regulations centered on human life, health and well-being. Today, within the Ukrainian Gambling Council (UGC, Ukraine), work is also underway to streamline the issue of advertising, and here are the reasons why it is important.

The law on the legalization of gambling in Ukraine was adopted in 2020 simultaneously with the beginning of revising the gambling legislation in the UK (Gambling Act Review) and at the EU level, and the timing of these processes is not the only coincidence: at the heart of Ukrainian and European regulations on the gambling market is exclusive principle of the population social protection.

This principle is brought to life by:

  • fighting against illegal operators;
  • establishing standards for responsible gaming;
  • updating advertising standards.

And if the leading force in the fight against the illegals has been and remains the state with its law enforcement system, then it is within the power of business to determine new adequate standards for gambling and advertising.

That is why business associations of the level of the BGC and EGBA are taking initiatives to stay ahead of legislators.

For instance, the new code on socially responsible advertising by the BGC was presented six months after the start of the national debate on how to protect vulnerable audiences from the risks associated with gambling addiction, but before the final draft of the law on gambling.

The BGC also initiated establishing an Ombudsman institution for the gambling market who would deal with customer complaints, and the association would guarantee the collective participation of all legal British operators in solving the arisen problems.

As for advertising, the latest BGC decisions are aimed at eliminating the risk of advertising gambling for persons under 18 years of age on the Internet: the members of the association have made a voluntary commitment that all sponsorship or advertising displays will be targeted to an audience of 25 years and older, and advertising in search engines and YouTube channels will profile users and be blocked for those under the age of 18, and will also contain mandatory information about the age limit for those under 18.

So, why is the BGC supporting increased industry requirements even earlier than required by law? This is proactive work: a legal business is ready to independently raise work standards because it is interested in long-term work, in preserving the essence and reputation of the industry as a place and a way to spend one’s time with pleasure, and not destroying the welfare of people—and shows its willingness to solve the problem of increased risks together with the state.

This will ensure that the UK government will not impose unenforceable and ill-considered regulations on the market, and gamblers will not switch to illegal services and products.

The same process is underway at the level of EU legislation: the EGBA, together with the European Commission Directorate in charge of media and advertising, have drafted a new code for responsible online advertising. As in the case with the BGC, this is far from the first code, and its main goal is to establish regulations adequate to the new digital realities.

In addition to rules on how gambling ads may and may not look like, the code contains techniques for protecting minors and a number of measures that are used for the first time:

  • a ban on sponsoring events that are mostly popular with minors;
  • a mandatory use of big data technologies to filter content available for viewing by minors on social media.

And although today this code has been adopted only by the national associations of five EU countries (Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal) and is not mandatory, the EGBA continues to promote such a decision to voluntarily join online operators to their initiative.

Of course, over almost 12 years of the existence of the gray gambling market in Ukraine, the advertising market has adapted to uncertain realities and needs an adequate reform. Studies show that the consumers are fatigued and somewhat irritated from the surging advertising of gambling in Ukraine.

The approach to capturing the attention of potential gamblers meets social reality, where the consumer expects a more responsible approach. For instance, according to my information, the most progressive operators minded at the long-term development of the market are already working to develop the foundations of ethics in the field of advertising, and operators of advertising space will also become the subject of such regulations.

This approach can only be welcomed: it will benefit gamblers who get social protection and operators who get a positive response to their work after legalization. The state will be able to concentrate more efforts on the fight against the illegals.

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