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Kevin Smith

The IGC's 'Advertising Code of Practice'

9 June 2004

The Interactive Gaming Council issued a finalized version of its advertising code of practice last month in hopes of industry-wide adoption.

The association, a not-for-profit organization representing businesses in the I-gaming industry, developed the initiative as a self-regulatory guideline for I-gaming operators and third-party companies acting on behalf of operators

The object of the code, as stated by IGC Executive Director Rick Smith, is "to ensure that advertisements are legal, decent, honest and truthful and that they have been prepared with a sense of obligation to the consumer and society and to ensure that members conduct business in a manner that generally upholds preserves and maintains the reputation of the online gaming industry as a whole."

The code includes guidelines for what type of information should be included on an operator's Web site and what forms of advertising should be conducted.

Among the recommendations in the code, the IGC suggests that each operator should include on its Web site, in a readily accessible location:

  • the name of the operator and the address of its registered office;

  • contact information (telephone, e-mail address, ect.) for resolving customer complaints and disputes;

  • a statement identifying the jurisdiction from which the operation is licensed in; and

  • a link or information about the IGC's Helping Hand program or similar programs designed to help compulsive gamblers.

The IGC also recommends that sites contain information about payouts to players, clear information about how to register and deposit money, clarification that the site is not designed for players under the age of 18 and assurance that proper privacy laws are adhered to.

In addition to the recommendations for content on Web sites, the IGC has made the following recommendations:

  • Advertising should not be false or misleading and deceptive, particularly with regard to winning, and should be based on fact or actual percentages.

  • Advertising should comply with principles of responsible gambling and should not be designed to encourage or mislead people to adopt uninformed gambling behavior.

  • Advertisements should be in good taste, not offend prevailing community standards and not target minors or be displayed at sites frequented by minors.

Further, the IGC recommends that advertisements shouldn't target people under the age of 18, portray people in stereotyped fashion or infringe on another's intellectual property rights. It also recommends that members include opt-out functionality in their e-mail campaigns.

The IGC's deputy chairman, Keith Furlong, said the code was made necessary by the absence of adequate government regulations.

"We felt that this was a step that had to be taken to keep the negative impact on the industry to a minimum," Furlong said. "We wanted to put an advisory code out for members to give them some guidance."

Furlong also stressed the importance of addressing underage gambling, although he feels it is something most operators have under control.

"I don't think it is a real widespread problem," he said. "There are a lot of checks and balances that an online operator can institute that a bricks-and-mortar casino can't to ensure that minors aren't gambling with them."

No one in the interactive gaming industry, he added, wants to encourage underage gambling.

"There is a lot of fear about underage gamblers," he said. "Having minors gambling online is not good for the industry, and most operators go out of their way to ensure that it is kept to an absolute minimum."

The finalized code came after several months of discussions following the release of a first draft in January--discussions that Furlong described as "very productive and healthy."

"Most of the tier-one operators realized this was an issue we had to address as an industry," he explained.

The overall response from IGC members, he said, has been positive, and he expects some of them to even take the initiative further.

"The responsible operators are stepping up," he said. "These are important issues, and we hope the more mature operators in our industry will even take these recommendations beyond what we suggest and implement even more stringent guidelines."

The IGC is hopeful that the guidelines could be used in the future as governments decide to regulate the online gaming industry. Furlong said governments could "pick up and simply include in their legislation or just use it as a starting point for the standards they want their operators to be held to."

A serious breach of the code, he added, could affect the status of IGC membership.

The IGC's 'Advertising Code of Practice' is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith