European players, your online poker may soon come with a health warning, if the bureaucrats in Brussels get their way. According to Reuters, the European Commission is to urge EU countries to add warning messages to online gambling advertisements, like those currently found on cigarette packets. It’s part of an initiative to tackle compulsive gambling by improving controls on advertising.
The European Commission has identified online gambling as the fastest-growing “service activity” in the Union, expanding at 15 percent per year and is concerned that widespread advertising could be viewed by vulnerable people.
In 2011, said the Commission, the EU had 6.8 million online gamblers.
While the recommendations are not legally binding, the EU suggests that the warning signs featured on advertisements should include the odds of winning and losing, as well as information on the risk of becoming addicted to gambling and assistance for compulsive gambling.
Of course, as online poker players, we’d like to see something like: “Warning: online poker can seriously damage your monitor, and the wall you just threw it at.”
Flippancy aside, we’re all for promoting responsible gambling, and the recommendations come at a time when there is increasing concern about the amount of gambling advertising in the media. A recent poll in the UK, where television advertising is legal but carefully regulated, found that two-thirds of the UK public were worried about the amount of advertising on their screens. Only 21 percent said they felt that advertising for online gaming targeted the “right audience.”
The survey, conducted by digital marketing firm IgnitionOne and polling organization ComRes, interviewed over 2,000 people, 604 of which were active or previous online gamblers.
Some countries in the EU, such as Italy and Sweden, have taken the opposite route and banned gambling advertising completely on television, radio, and even in print. The Swedish Supreme Court was recently forced to acquit two editors of newspapers Aftonbladet and Expressen, who were prosecuted for promoting foreign gambling operators after the editors took the case to the European Court of Justice.
Sweden ‘s monopolistic online poker provider Svenska Spel, meanwhile, is marketed without the use of traditional online poker promotions, such as sign-up bonuses and rakeback, in order to actively deter new players from taking up the game.
The Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA) welcomed the new European Commission recommendations.
“Gambling is undoubtedly a socially sensitive area of entertainment and commerce,” GBGA’s chief executive Peter Howitt told eGaming Review. “I think it is understandable that stakeholders and regulators want the risks of gambling to be clearly identified to consumers – as long as it is done sensibly and proportionately then the reputable industry operators such as the GBGA members will support it.”