„Those who forget about the past are doomed to repeat it”, said George Santayana, Spanish essayist and philosopher, and somebody else felt the need to add : ”A smart man learns from the others’ mistakes ”.
These words came to my mind on the occasion of the debates dedicated to the trends at European level in what regards the advertising regulations in gambling.
The speakers reunited within the conference Prague Gaming Summit 2019, emphasized, in one voice, how important it is that the gambling industry that other countries would not to get in the situation of Italy, where the government imposed a total ban of gambling advertisements.
Now, when the Italian executive’s (excessive) measure came into force, the industry came with various proposals of self-regulation, by which they are trying to show their availability towards a more restrictive framework in what regards gambling commercials, social responsibility, care for minors, but this is much too late. None of the decision makers is willing to even listen to them.
On the other hand, we, who haven’t got (yet) in Italy’s situation, we still have the possibility (for how long?!) to do something, to not passively expect that others would come and set the rules for us. In other words, we can still ”learn from the others’ mistakes”.
This year Romania has two rounds of elections – for the European Parliament and for presidency. Those looking for easy votes, attracted with populist messages, as it happened in Italy, don’t need to search too much in order to discover how “dear” the gambling industry is to the audience and what would be the support of such a smart idea. And let’s not get fooled with the thought that (maybe) there would be any politicians that might defend our industry. In Italy no one, no party, tried to defend this industry. The only thing they timidly said was that maybe it is a too drastic measure and maybe it should be discussed first with the r gambling operators’ representatives, with the media etc. No party wanted to associate their image with that of a defender of the gambling field.
This trend of a more strict regulation of the gambling advertising is present in many European countries. The authorities from Great Britain, Belgium, Spain have already taken steps in this direction, other announced that they are analyzing various options in this respect.
Thus, Ardalan Shekarabi, ministry of Public Administration from Sweden, clearly mentioned that ”if the industry proves to be incapable in proving responsibility and unless we saw moderation in the gambling advertising, we will not hesitate in passing to harsher, binding measures”. A new clear, ultimate invitation to self-regulation.
We got to Lenin’s words: What is to be done?
We believe that the time for statements regarding one’s good intentions has passed. Now, our industry, really must take decisive steps towards a responsible marketing and advertising. The big problem now is how to convince all of (or at least the majority) the operators to self-limit themselves in what regards the contents and the broadcast of their advertising messages.
It will not be enough that only some of the most responsible operators take these steps, because the “land” left free by them will soon be filled by those who aren’t ready to understand that, in the case of a total ban as it happened in Italy, the losses for the entire industry will be incomparably higher.
There are still those who are constantly looking at the company’s financial results, shareholders and/ or owners. Why would they self-limit themselves, why would they diminish their presence on the market, when their competitors aren’t doing the same thing? Unity is very difficult, if not impossible to achieve on simpler themes than this one, let alone in case of advertising.
Another argument which is undermining this hypothetical unanimity is the position of the small operators, but also of those who have only recently entered the market. ”You, the big or the old ones, who are already well-known, you have advertised your activity for years, it is easy for you to (self)limit yourselves. But what about us, how could people find out about us, if not by commercials? And why would our commercials be “more tamely”, duller and more discrete than those before ours?!”, says their argument.
Who can guarantee that the authorities will still not give a law overnight, without any consultation with the industry, by which they would severely restrict the advertising modalities?! Therefore, everything is in vain, and also highly inequitable to the newer operators or to those who are to enter the market in the future.”
Finally, here is the possible (but real) reaction of some online gambling operators:
”Traditional operators have at their disposal the windows of their locations, the neon signboards from their entrances, posters with attractive commercials displayed in their windows. None of these for online operators. If you cut/limit our possibility of making ourselves known by TV commercials, on stadiums, online etc., what else do we have left?! Nothing!”
All these points of view are worth taken into consideration. No self-regulation measure can be done without discussing and reaching a common ground with all the parties involved. Otherwise, the effect would be that mentioned before, only some would comply with the new norms, and the result of the action, on the whole, would be with no impact whatsoever.
Then, if unanimity is impossible, and in its absence any self-regulation proposal remains a dead letter, what else can be done? A possible answer will be provided in our future edition, under the heading supported by ROMBET – Responsible Gaming.