Irish gambling operators will no longer advertise during sports matches, nor take credit card deposits

Irish Gambling Operators Self-Impose Advertising And Credit Card Payment Restrictions: Should The US Follow Suit?

Online gambling operators can still have the luck of the Irish in their marketplace, but without credit card deposits from those customers. They can also no longer advertise to them during sporting events. These are the self-imposed rules that are slated to be observed by online gambling and sports betting operators in Ireland, the Independent reported on Sunday.

The Irish Bookmakers’ Association’s (IBA) members are enacting the organization’s recommended measures in order to protect players. IBA chair Sharon Byrne told the Independent that although these measures aren’t enough on their own to stop problem gambling, they are a step down the right path. However, she reiterated the IBA’s position that Ireland needs an independent regulatory body.

According to the Independent, IBA members planning to adopt the new code include:

  • Boylesports
  • Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment 
  • Ladbrokes owner Entain
  • Bet365
  • Betway 
  • The Kindred Group, owner of brands including 32Red

Entain, Flutter, Kindred could enact rules with their US online gambling brands

What’s interesting about the situation in Ireland is that most of those operators either operate in the US or have US sister brands. These do currently accept credit card deposits and advertise “whistle-to-whistle” during sports matches.

Entain is part-owner of BetMGM, in partnership with MGM Resorts International. Even though Entain has agreed to implement the enhanced self-regulation in Ireland with Ladbrokes, the US online gambling market leader – BetMGM Casino – still accepts credit card deposits and doesn’t seem to have self-imposed blackout periods for commercials. The same is true of FanDuel Casino, a brand primarily owned by Flutter; as well as Unibet Casino, Kindred’s US-facing online gambling operator.

Similarly, less prominent brands in the US – Bet365, partnered with Playtech; and Betway Casino – accept credit cards.

The online sports betting arms of these brands all have similar practices in the US.

In principle, these brands and other US online gambling operators could implement the same changes happening in Ireland. However, each state that has legalized online gambling has its own regulatory policy, providing oversight that Ireland currently depends on offshore regulators for. To avoid being at a competitive disadvantage, operators do whatever is allowed by the regulator in these situations, and at the moment, most states have relatively loose rules about advertising and payment methods.

Self-regulation and outside regulation aren’t mutually exclusive

In principle, self-regulation is good for the industry. It allows companies to curb their harmful practices by mutual agreement before public backlash leads to more heavy-handed restrictions.

Because online gambling is so new in the US, the government regulators are largely inexperienced. As a result, the US iGaming market is almost the Wild West right now, at least as far as marketing goes. Ireland may be even more untamed.

However, self-regulation rarely works on its own. A two-pronged approach is best, as external and self-directed regulation complement each other. Operators in both countries can learn from what happens when industries fail to adequately self-regulate.

Data privacy as a case study

For instance, customer data privacy laws developed more bite after marketers went too far. In Canada, it was legislation prohibiting email spam in 2014; then wide-ranging data privacy rules benefiting EU citizens around the world in 2018; then California in 2020.

While the US is lagging behind other countries in creating enforceable data privacy measures, it is finally putting checks on largely self-regulated businesses.

In the context of misuse of customer data, Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal is pretty easily linked with the enactment of the 2020 California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Marketers expected this law about use of consumers’ personally identifiable information (PII) to become more omnipresent than it has.

However, it’s made the personalization so many consumers expect more difficult for every marketer, including online gambling operators. It means they need to continue to seek customer opt-ins in order to gain first-party data on bettors who expect to already be deeply understood.

Operators from the EU to the US complain about how hard it is to meet customer expectations in the age of data privacy. That’s part of the reason for the increased emphasis on online gambling operators’ loyalty programs. That’s first-party PII data the operators can use to create personalized gambling experiences.

In the meantime, maybe US operators can take a cue from their Irish counterparts. They can enact more self-regulation measures through organizations like the American Gaming Association and the National Council on Problem Gambling. That way, they can experience this Irish proverb for themselves:

“May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light, may good luck pursue you each day and night.”

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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