Italian gaming regulators have cited 888 Holdings for violating a new law that severely restricts the way in which gaming companies can advertise their products.
In effect since January, the legislation forbids operators to advertise in such a way that would cause the “incitement to gamble or exaltation of the practice.” In other words, gambling can not be shown or marketed as being a good thing.
The country’s Court of the Institute of Advertising Self-Regulation called 888 out for broadcasting an ad on television that showed a barrage of gold coins raining down on a punter who was playing a slot game, eGR reported. The Court found the ad to be misleading in that viewers may falsely believe that gambling is a way to make quick money. This, the regulators determined, could prompt certain individuals to perhaps fall victim to gambling addiction.
The ad in question clearly included statements regarding responsible gambling practices in compliance with the statute that requires the risk of addictive gambling to be prominently displayed. Despite attempting to cater their advertisement to the constraints of the new regulations, 888 may be fined for their actions. The Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (Competition Authority) are allowed to levy fines up to €500,000 for the most serious breaches of the law according to the standards set.
The whole problem with the law is that companies are not allowed to “incite” people to gamble. But inciting people to use or buy your product is the essence of advertising itself.
As explained by Giulio Coraggio, an attorney with DLA Piper, “It might be argued that such decisions are in breach of the general principle of freedom to perform business since advertising is an essential part of a business.” In other words, if a gaming company is offering the possibility of winning a huge jackpot, it should be permitted to advertise as much.
This is the first time since the law was enacted that a company has been cited for breaching the new regulations. Though its not clear what time of day the ad ran and did not accuse 888 of pandering to minors, those regulations include the airing of advertisements during times that children are most likely to be watching television or listening to the radio.
Looking at a literal interpretation of the Italian advertising statute, any online poker or gambling website that includes a banner featuring a welcome deposit bonus could be guilty of promoting an incentive to gamble, Coraggio said. He also noted that the ad legislation makes the Italian regulator the sole authority on the country’s advertising regulations pertaining to gambling. As such, the AAMS can “decide on the legality of gambling ads without having any case law or precedents to rely on.”
Its good and fine to protect children from gambling advertisements and to warn players that gambling involves risk. Pointing out that a small percentage of gamblers may also cross over the line into addictive behavior if they don’t or can’t gamble responsibly is also crucial.
But to restrict companies from advertising their product in a responsible fashion and enforcing a ridiculous law that lacks specifics is very unfair. How can gambling be promoted and advertised without pointing out the possibility of financial gain?