UK Forbids Gambling Services From Advertising on Pirate Sites

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The regulatory body responsible for keeping gambling clean in the UK has announced a new licensing condition for operators. Following a consultation with stakeholders, licensees will be required to prevent their advertisements appearing on sites that provide unauthorized access to copyrighted content.

diceThe vast majority of publicly available ‘pirate’ sites rely on some kind of advertising to generate revenue. With millions of visitors per month, some are reported to make significant sums.

As a result, copyright holders have been investing considerable resources into initiatives that try to persuade advertisers to stop supporting them. If advertising is removed from these sites, they will cease to exist, entertainment companies argue.

But despite immense pressure on mainstream advertisers, it is still fairly common to be presented with gambling adverts when visiting unauthorized torrent and streaming portals. Just months ago, Bet365, Coral and Sky Bet in the UK were called out over the practice.

However, it’s now clear that if UK gambling operators want to keep their valuable licenses clean, they will have to ensure there is no repeat of these mistakes.

The Gambling Commission is a government-sponsored body with a mandate to keep the gambling business clean in the UK. Its responsibilities include protecting children and other vulnerable people while ensuring that gambling is fair and open. It is also charged with keeping all aspects of crime out of gambling.

In September 2015, the Commission consulted on amendments (pdf) to licensing conditions that would compel licensees to ensure that advertisements “placed by themselves and others” do not appear on websites providing unauthorized access to copyright content.

That consultation was published in May (pdf) followed by a supplementary consultation this month. All respondents agreed in principle that gambling operators should not advertise on pirate sites but there was less consensus on how that could be achieved.

While not advertising directly is less of a problem, some respondents indicated that they use affiliates to place adverts on their behalf, so monitoring them all could prove difficult. Others noted that special software designed for the task might prove expensive.

Overall, however, the Gambling Commission says that something still needs to be done since ads for gambling companies continue to appear on pirate sites.

“Although adverts placed on such websites are not criminal in themselves, they contribute to funding the websites, and are therefore associating gambling with crime. They also frequently appear next to other adverts and links containing malware or viruses,” the Commission says.

As a result, the Commission is now taking action. Due to the perceived seriousness of the situation, the implementation of a ‘social code’ often employed by the industry was rejected. Instead, a new licensing condition is being introduced which will require licensees to ensure that their marketing does not appear on pirate sites.

Licensees will be free to choose which preventative measures they take but they are being advised to make use of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit’s ‘Infringing Website List‘. Operators are also advised to tighten their agreements with affiliates, making it clear that “robust action” can be taken for any breaches. The use of proactive monitoring software is also advised.

There were some objections from operators, mostly concerning the difficulty of the task ahead, but help will be at hand. Licensees will able to draw on the experiences not only of PIPCU, but also the Federation Against Copyright Theft and the BPI.

“We have decided to implement the new licence condition requiring operators to take responsibility for preventing digital adverts advertising their brand from appearing on websites providing access to unauthorised content,” the Gambling Commission said in response to the consultation.

“We have taken account of respondents’ views and have amended the wording of the licence condition to make clear that in the case of third party advertising operators should implement all reasonable steps to prevent marketing appearing on such websites, and to react quickly and effectively if they do appear.”

The new licence condition (shown below) will be implemented in the autumn/fall.

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