Toni Halonen, co-founder of online casino comparison site, Bojoko.com, shares his thoughts on why UK affiliates should not be regulated and licensed.
UK.- Momentum is undoubtedly building behind the idea that online gambling affiliates working in the UK market should be licensed in the same way that operators and suppliers are.
The British government as well as industry trade bodies such as Responsible Affiliates in Gambling are calling on publishers to be licensed as part of efforts to better protect consumers.
Bojoko is absolutely ready for affiliate regulation and licensing should it become mandatory and if I was just thinking about our business, it is something I should welcome.
But to just think of our business is a little selfish and, ultimately, I believe that affiliate licensing would be bad for the entire online gambling industry in the UK.
Below, I explain some of the reasons why.
1) Regulation stifles innovation and can negatively affect player safety
Regulation and licensing is to ensure that companies are meeting the highest possible standards when it comes to responsible gambling and safe gaming – which of course is a good thing.
But history shows us that regulation never stays constant and over time becomes increasingly restrictive and when this happens, innovation suffers and players are actually at greater risk.
This is because when regulation restricts the products and services that are offered by licensed companies, consumers turn to those that are not and have more to offer.
Sweden is a great example of this – since the market regulated back in 2019 there have been many concerns surrounding over-regulation and the growing number of players turning to offshore sites.
If online gambling affiliates were subject to regulation and licensing, the same thing could happen which could lead to players turning to unlicensed sites promoting unlicensed brands.
2) Affiliates are already regulated
Online gambling publishers are already regulated via the UK licensed online casino partners they work with, as well as by the numerous watchdogs such as the Advertising Standards Authority.
The Gambling Commission has made it clear that operators are responsible for the marketing activity that affiliates undertake on their behalf.
This means operators must monitor their affiliate partners and ensure they are meeting the same responsible marketing standards that they must adhere to.
What’s more, if an affiliate advertises on radio, TV and social media or in print magazines and newspapers, they fall under the code set by the Advertising Standards Authority.
Social media channels such as Facebook also police online gambling affiliates.
We couldn’t secure a permit from Facebook to advertise on its platform because we had one game developer listed on Bojoko that was not licensed at the time, even though they were in the process of applying for a licence.
3) Google also keeps a close eye on affiliates
Most affiliates use SEO to drive readers from the SERPs to their sites, and in order to do this successfully affiliates must meet Google’s rules and guidelines.
Google expects sites to have a detailed About Us page where readers can find information about the business and the people behind the site they are visiting.
This includes the names of the people working on the site plus how they can be contacted.
The search engine prioritises sites that provide this information which means players searching for terms around online casinos are more likely to land on sites that provide full disclosure.
If a site and the people behind it are happy to disclose who they are and the business they work for, they are less likely to be engaging in shady marketing tactics and working with unreputable brands.
This is something we have done from day one with Bojoko and long before it was even considered to be a ranking factor by Google.
For us, we want to be open and transparent with our readers and see no reason why we should not tell them who we are, how we work and the commercial relationship we have with operators.
4) Significant progress have been made without the need for affiliate licensing
The UK online gambling industry has made incredible progress over the past 10 years when it comes to responsible gambling and is considered an authority in safe gaming.
Over this period of time, the relationship between operators and affiliates has changed significantly and today the vast majority of publishers are responsible and meeting the standards set.
This has been achieved without the need to regulate and license affiliates and the situation is working sufficiently well that it shouldn’t be changed moving forwards.
There are a small number of affiliates that are undertaking shady marketing tactics, but they are in the minority and, over time, are seeing their businesses grind to a halt.
Operators know they can only work with affiliates that meet the standards they require, and players are sufficiently educated to know the difference between a good affiliate and a bad affiliate.
Safe and fair gambling is a big part of on online casino user experience and is just as important as the gaming product itself. But I would argue that both aspects need to be improved.
That being said, we need to acknowledge that we have made significant progress in responsible gambling and continue to do so.
Moving forwards, we ned to keep pushing ahead but let’s do it without multiple layers of regulation which will impact product innovation but, more importantly, could also put player safety at risk.