Safer Gambling Week is an incredible initiative and the articles written and conversations had during the coming seven days can and will have a significant impact on the direction the industry takes over the next 12 months when it comes to responsible gambling.
A key topic this year will undoubtedly be the role affiliates play in marketing and promoting online gambling brands to players in the UK and beyond, and what more can be done to ensure best practice and how to continue to drive education around safe gambling.
Ultimately, it is an affiliate’s job to educate the prospective customer so that they can make an informed decision to purchase or, in the case of online gambling affiliates, where to play and wager. This means they must meet the same standards set for operators and suppliers.
To do this, affiliates should place the utmost credence on assessing the responsible gambling practices of licensed operators and suppliers, and ensure the expected social responsibility standards are mirrored in their own marketing activities and messaging.
This is undoubtedly a tough task given the ever fluid rulebook they must play to, which translates differently from market to market and often differs in scope from operator to operator. But one thing that is clear (at least in the UK rulebook) is requirements around age verification.
For online gambling affiliates that focus on game reviews, this is a huge challenge not least because the content they are reviewing does not belong to the operator they are commercially tied to by terms and conditions and guidelines.
Instead, the content is owned by third-party game developers and studios who are quite often unaware that their free to play games are featuring on affiliate websites. If they do and without overlaying adequate age verification, the studio is in breach of its UKGC licence.
In this case, naivety is not an excuse and the best the studio can hope for is a slap on the wrist (although I would expect to see fines) and an immediate souring of a relationship that one party (the game developer) didn’t even know it was a part of.
For game review affiliates, their operator partners and game studios, the solution is simple in principal but hard to deploy in reality. If they can effectively age verify players, they can continue to use free to play games in their marketing activity in the UK market.
Some game review affiliates have taken steps to introduce age verification but, in most cases, it has been costly and resulted in a cumbersome process that harms the user experience and decreases their potential propensity to convert, ultimately impacting the affiliate’s ability to generate revenue.
We actually have the potential through our Demo Game Server to handle full KYC and AML requirements on behalf of operators, meaning that affiliates can accurately age verify their visitors and allow them to access free to play games.
Because the player has been age verified before they click through to the operator’s site, all they need to do is create an account, deposit and play. Of course, you can imagine the conversion rates that deliver but, more importantly, compliantly and in line with regulatory requirements.
In addition to this, I also believe that we need more efficient collaboration between operators, game developers and affiliates. Ideally, this should be coordinated through centralised trade associations for licenced operators and game developers, as well as for their affiliate counterparts.
The processes affiliates need to undertake must be slick with achievable rules and regulations defined by logic, clear in their objective and with a means of demonstrating the success their adoption has in protecting vulnerable customers and raising standards
Make anything too onerous and the powers that be will only push affiliates away from working with licensed operators and game developers in favour of those in the black market where player protections and safe gaming will have zero consideration.
Affiliates and their operator and game developer partners have already done an incredible job in terms of taking steps to protect vulnerable players, and they must be credited for this. But as always, more can and should be done.
By forming trade associations and making all stakeholders aware of new technologies available to them, especially in terms of KYC and AML, I believe we can truly protect the vulnerable while ensuring those that enjoy gambling responsibly can continue to do so.
Tom Galanis, Managing Director of First Look Games & Tag Media