Gambling Commission warns operators of affiliates' use of F2P Games

United Kingdom

The Gambling Commission has written to gambling operators to make clear that recent changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice ("LCCP"), that state operators must conduct age verification before allowing players to play free to play versions of real money games on their websites ("FTP Games"), extend to affiliates as well.

The letter read:

"The Commission has been made aware that licensees may be benefitting from affiliate advertising models that offer free-to-play versions of real money games without age verification…Licensees should therefore ensure the new LCCP provisions on [FTP Games] are applied to gambling affiliates they employ. This may require advertising methods to be amended."

The Gambling Commission differentiated FTP Games from other methods of advertising, such as screenshots or videos of games, as these do not require customer interaction. It also warned operators that they should take steps "immediately" to ensure that their FTP Games are not accessed by children and young people via affiliate websites.

The Gambling Commission's letter reinforces social responsibility code provision 1.1.2 that makes clear that it is the gambling operator that retains primary responsibility for compliance with the LCCP when it contracts with third parties for the provision of any aspect of its business.  The letter is also in keeping with a series of regulatory clampdowns on protecting children from exposure to gambling. For example, new guidance from the Advertising Standards Authority (the "ASA") to protect children from irresponsible gambling ads came into force on 1 April 2019, and the ASA has also started to use child "avatars" (online profiles that mimic children browsing) to identify ads of operators appearing on websites that are aimed at children.

It will be interesting to see how the Gambling Commission's letter will affect affiliate advertising models. Given the cost implications of age verification methods, it might well be the case that many affiliates abandon this method of advertising in favour of other models.