UK white paper reaffirms operators’ accountability for affiliates

Operators' accountability for affiliate activities has been reaffirmed by the UK government in its white paper review on gambling

In the long-awaited white paper review it was confirmed that the GB Gambling Commission will continue to hold licensee operators accountable for all marketing undertaken on their behalf by affiliate partners.

No affiliate licence

The white paper’s comments on affiliates are in line with the leaked reports from July 2022, with the UK government “not persuaded by arguments for online affiliates to be licensed”.

Under the reforms confirmed today there will be an expected demand from operators for higher standards of advertising and marketing compliance from some affiliate partners.

Licence could have reduced operator burden

Jamie Walters, CEO at QiH Group, believes that licences for affiliates could have taken some of the burden off operators.

“We know from our successful efforts obtaining affiliate licences in the US that going through such an exercise can be costly and time-consuming,” said Walters.

“However, given our knowledge about compliance and strict approach to staying within regulatory requirements,” Walters added. “We see it as a worthwhile investment and a positive development for us as it is a way to separate the non-compliant operators from the compliant ones.”

“Ultimately, this takes some of the burden off operators in that it removes the requirement for them to do such exhaustive due diligence before agreeing deals with potential affiliate partners.”

New advertising measures

The UK government has also made calls to make advertising “smarter and safe” with other measures including having the Gambling Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority take a joint approach to tackle content marketing that may appeal to children.

Another announcement was that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport's (DCMS) Online Advertising Programme will be reviewing the role of platforms in ensuring ads are safe and socially responsible.

The GB Gambling Commission will also be empowered to strengthen consent for direct marketing for online gambling. The new measures will impact both new and existing customers in terms of giving them a clearer choice on how and when they want to be contacted by gambling operators, which will likely have a knock-on effect for affiliates.

Proposed is making marketing and offer opt-in clear and separate options at sign-up and not bundled with other broader term consents. Customers should also be able to change these preferences at any time through account settings, while operators must offer players the opportunity to opt-in and out of different forms of communication. This will mean deciding if they want to be contacted by text, email or mobile push notifications.

Bonus consent

Customers should also be given the option to opt-in to bonuses and promotional offers separately from other forms of marketing and set controls regarding what products they receive offers on. This will mean an end to cross-selling products without having a user’s consent.

These measures will be in addition to forthcoming requirements for operators to not target any direct marketing at those showing strong indicators of risk.

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