Betting Business Bulletin 10th September 2017

Sky Bet shocks affiliates with programme closure

A sign of things to come? Sky Betting & Gaming made the shock decision to close down its affiliate programme last week, blaming the regulatory pressures on the sector.

There is now speculation that other operators could follow suit.

Affiliates on social media and through websites have historically been an important way for operators to attract new customers, earning a commission from every customer they refer.

However, the sector became the subject of an investigation launched by the Information Commissioner’s Office last November over large numbers of spam text messages associated with gambling.

Following that news, Gambling Commission chief executive Sarah Harrison warned gambling operators they were ultimately responsible if affiliates were found to have broken the rules.

Affiliates were also the subject of claims of dubious practice in The Guardian newspaper, although it is understood the review carried out by Sky Bet’s parent company pre-dated that article.

A spokesperson for Sky Betting & Gaming said: “Following a comprehensive strategic review, Sky Betting & Gaming has decided to close its UK affiliate programme. This difficult decision has been taken to give us more control of our marketing outputs and standards to ensure we can continue to meet the changing regulatory requirements in our sector.

“We’ve notified all the companies that will be affected by this decision and would like to sincerely thank them for all their support and hard work in helping to grow and promote Sky Betting & Gaming’s brands since we launched in 2000.

“We’ll continue to work with our affiliates for the next 30 days, and a dedicated team is in place to respond to all inquiries.”

Odds comparison website Oddschecker, which is one of Sky Betting & Gaming’s brands, is not affected by the decision.

Labour to remove gambling logos from kits

Labour last week unveiled the first of what is said to be a number of gambling policies as the party announced they would ban gambling operators from advertising on football shirts.

Deputy leader Tom Watson, who is also shadow culture secretary, said a Labour government would encourage the football authorities to bring in their own ban but would legislate if required.

Nine of the 20 English Premier League teams have gambling firms as shirt sponsors, although the majority target Asian markets rather than British customers, while 14 Championship clubs have gambling shirt sponsors.

Earlier this year the Football Association ended its partnership with Ladbrokes and announced it would no longer have sponsorships with betting companies.

Watson told The Guardian: “Shirt sponsorship sends out a message that football clubs don’t take problem gambling among their own fans seriously enough.

“It puts gambling brands in front of fans of all ages, not just at matches but on broadcasts and highlights packages on both commercial television and the BBC.”

The Remote Gambling Association said there was no evidence linking shirt sponsorship to problem gambling levels but that sponsorship was likely to be part of the government’s ongoing review of gambling advertising.

They also pointed out the industry advertising code already prohibits gambling companies from sponsoring or having their logos on any sporting merchandise for use by under 18s, including replica kits.

However, they added: “Whatever the outcome of the government’s review we will work constructively with them to make any necessary improvements.”

Labour has been pressing the government to reduce the maximum stale on gaming machines to £2 form £100.

888 in the red after commission penalty

The record penalty the Gambling Commission recently handed out to 888 helped push the online operator into the red in the first half of the year.

Their half-year report released last Tuesday revealed 888 made a loss before tax of $17.3 million (approx £13.4m) in the first six months of 2017 having made a profit of $27.8m in the corresponding period last year.

Last week 888 were hit with a £7.8m penalty from the Gambling Commission for serious failings in their social responsibility measures, including allowing 7,000 customers who had self-excluded to continue playing on their bingo platform.

888’s loss was blamed on exceptional charges of $50.8m during the period, $5.5m in connection with the Gambling Commission settlement and the remainder linked to a potential VAT bill in Germany.

Revenue increased by nine per cent on a constant currency basis to $270.1m.

Chief executive Itai Frieberger said: “Whilst the industry will continue to face regulatory headwinds in the second half of the year . . . trading in the third quarter has started well and in line with the board’s expectations.

“Underpinned by this momentum as well as the proven strengths of the group’s business model the board remains confident that 888 will achieve further progress and deliver its expectations for the full year.”

888 said they expected further regulation in the UK to increase costs.

They added: “At the same time, enhanced regulation in the UK around areas such as television advertising and bonuses will impact overall UK market growth.”

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