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BCLC to talk Responsible Gambling marketing - without a market

November 25, 2021

The BCLC has hosted 'New Horizons in Responsible Gambling' conferences since 2013.  It has announced that it will be holding a free pre-conference session on December 1, 2021 that will focus on the topic of: Responsible Marketing: Establishing "Guardrails" for Safer Play.  The guests for this event include the following:

Floris van Driel, Responsible Gaming Specialist for Sports Betting and Casino from Nederlandse Loterji as marketed under the TOTO brand. Recently, a TOTO campaign promoting responsible participation in online sports betting was recognized as the Safer Gambling Campaign of the Year at the Global Regulatory Awards.  

BCLC Marketing Director, Sam MacMillan whose 'passion for strategic marketing development and innovation has been integral in the exploration of how BCLC can effectively leverage data and information to create safer marketing practices for healthy play.'

BCLC Director, Player Health, Dr. Jamie Wiebe whom 'oversees the operation and continuous improvement of player health programs, including research, the GameSense Advisor Program, Health Impact Assessments, corporate social responsibility assessments, voluntary self-exclusion program and policies, the New Horizons conference, and accreditations.'

These people are no doubt highly qualified in their fields and this is a worthy, important discussion, but it cannot be conducted effectively within the vacuum of a pretend monopoly, a scheme that the BCLC intends to continue.  Given this, the mere suggestion of holding this discussion rings hollow.

This sort of discussion on responsible marketing must be coupled with a robust, regulated market scheme.  Safer, more responsible marketing of gambling products has been gaining significant traction in various regulated markets around the World.  

UK regulated operators pooled together to create and market their "Tap Out, take a moment. Avoid Bet Regret" campaign, which is looking to alter risky behaviour for more vulnerable individuals.  In June 2021, results showed that "53% of the audience with higher risk profiles showed some intention to cut down their betting, while 17% of those surveyed were actively ‘tapping out’ of their betting apps before placing a wager they believed they might regret.

A campaign in the UK can have results like this because the decision & policy makers can actually put their ideas into practice in the market in conjunction with operators in a meaningful way, and then study the results properly.

Safer Gambling Campaign: Bet Regret - Tap Out, take a moment. Avoid Bet Regret: Pub

In regulated markets, discussions around the responsible marketing of gambling have also turned into policies that have limited the available timing and placement of gambling ads. 

In the UK, the government is pondering the elimination of gambling brand ad placements on professional football club uniforms.  Given the exposure and popularity of the sport and these shirts with young people, this potential move would be powerful, yet is unsurprising given widespread cries to lessen the visibility of gambling in that country's most popular sport.

Online sports betting is nationally regulated in Italy.  No Serie A or Serie B football club may have an official gambling or betting partner that operates within the Italian market. (Clubs may partner with 'International' providers only, those that serve external markets.) 

Australia has one of the highest gambling participation rates in the world in terms of money spent per person.  It is a market that is highly regulated, where people across the country can play at over two dozen online sportsbook providers.  To help deal with problem gambling issues in the country, in 2018, Australia banned gambling advertisements during day-time live TV broadcasts of sporting events

Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden and other regulated national markets in Europe have moved to ensure that gambling marketing materials cannot use imagery of athletes or people that would be identified as role models for young people.  In some such regulated gambling markets, young people themselves, those that appear to be 25 years old or younger may not appear in gambling marketing materials.

These are all seriously progressive moves with regard to the responsible marketing of gambling products.  Did you note the shared thread through all the initiatives?  They all occurred in regulated markets - not within pseudo-monopolies.  Without a regulated market, the folks at the BCLC that are participating in this discussion are doing little more than shouting into the void.

What void? In this case, the void is the great unknown that is: the 'grey market' of BC betting sites. Except that it's really not all that unknown anymore.

On November 1, 2021, the BCLC celebrated a milestone in taking $25 million in single-event bets in the two months since their PlayNow.com betting site has been able to accept them.  BC has a population of approximately 5.1 million people.  Contrast these figures with the betting 'handle' in Colorado's regulated market of 5.8 million people that has numerous legal online sportsbook providers.  In Colorado's last two recorded months of September and August, the total betting handle was ~US$620 million, or approximately CAD740 million.

BC and Colorado are quite similar across economic metrics and they share similar sporting interests.  Yet we are to believe that the BCLC 'monopoly' is serving most of the BC sports betting public based on these figures?

Quite clearly, any reasonable person can see that in August and September, the 'grey market' sports betting providers that service BC players were likely handling bets totaling in the region of 700 million CAD. 

If perhaps 95% of the bets in British Columbia are happening in the 'grey market' outside the purview of the guest speakers and experts that are 'collecting and leveraging data toward safer gambling' and developing various gambling related health programs - what good are these efforts and discussions?  The efforts surrounding data are missing the gambling habits of the vast, vast majority of British Columbians, and few of the health programs will actually touch British Columbians or improve their outcomes.

That's the void, but the BCLC will still continue to have its 'progressive' discussions, issuing press releases to this effect.  All while the new legal Ontario sports betting market will actually be able to implement many of the ideas that the BCLC can only discuss, and bettors resident in Ontario will be the safer for it. 

Some regulators talk the talk, others walk the walk.


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