9 things iGaming companies should never do

Thinking of setting up an online casino or sportsbook? Competition amongst online gambling companies in this day and age is highly competitive. Because of this, new companies to the market (as well as existing ones) are always looking for an angle, that unique USP that will set them apart from the competition.

Online gaming companies are known for turning to ever more inventive ways to garner publicity or capture new players. Some of them are legitimate, but some are just too risque to be really valuable and may, in fact, do more damage to your brand than good. Here are nine things that iGaming companies should avoid getting involved with at all costs…

Get involved with charity

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

Don’t get involved with charities, just don’t do it. It seems to be a very common mistake for start-up gambling companies to try and boost their image by getting involved with charitable organisations. This is a big mistake. Openly donating to charity whilst a good thing in of itself will always backfire if you are in the gambling industry.

The truth of the matter is that any association with charities by online casinos or sportsbooks will always be viewed with suspicion by gamblers. Nobody is ever going to choose to gamble at your casino because you donate to their favourite charity. Nobody! This is especially true of children’s charities. Do not go there, just don’t go anywhere near children’s charities if you want to be taken seriously. By all means, if employees and senior executives wish to donate to a charity then go for it, but do it privately. Under no circumstances make a song and dance of your charitable contributions.

From time to time there will be opportunities for employees to take part in ‘fun runs’ or some other form of sponsorship opportunity for a major charity. This should, of course, be encouraged. However, what you should never do is try to use this as a marketing opportunity. Never encourage your employees to run in casino branded T-shirts for example. Do not attempt to sponsor drinks stops, water bottles or anything else to do with the charity. In all likelihood, no charity would accept public sponsorship from iGaming companies anyway, but it will do you no favours to consider getting involved.

Employ sleazy advertising

‘Sex sells’ is a commonly heard mantra throughout the marketing industry. Whilst this is true generally, it does not apply to the gambling industry. Sleazy advertising is a big NO-NO! This is especially true when advertising in the UK where both the BCAP (broadcasting committee of advertising practice) and the ASA (advertising standards authority) are very clear about the use of sexual references in gambling advertising.

The BCAP Code states:

Advertisements must not link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness.

Marketing communications may feature attractive people, as long as the communication as a whole does not link gambling with seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness.

The ASA is likely to consider that the following approaches breach these rules:

  • the portrayal of a character who is treated with admiration by others as a result of their gambling; or
  • portraying a character’s transformation (e.g. an individual becoming glamorous and popular) owing to their participation in gambling.

Source – CAP Gambling advertising: responsibility and problem gambling

As an example, one Polish owned sportsbook and casino making their first foray into the UK market spent £50,000 on a TV advertisement that never saw the light of day. This company hired an ad agency with no prior experience of gambling to come up with a TV advert. The ad that they came up with was essentially a fat sweaty guy in the gym leering over a very seductive young lady in a leotard. The ad featured multiple close-ups of the young lady’s rear end and cleavage and not too much else. The ad was more Benny Hill than William Hill and was never released after receiving a lot of negative feedback.

Get involved with girls

Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash

In these enlightened days of #METOO and Harvey Weinstein, there is simply no excuse for employing glamorous models to promote online gambling. Let me clarify this statement by saying that I do not include the use of models at trade shows or fan engagement days which can be viewed as harmless fun. However, employing the use of gorgeous models as full-time ambassadors or the issuing of calendars that feature models in various states of undress is not a good idea. The strategy of using beautiful women to push your brand is nearly always going to draw negative comments and quite possibly backfire massively.

Pander to niche markets

With so many minority groups taking centre stage these days, it might seem like a good idea to dedicate an online gambling site that caters for one of these. Don’t do it. Gambling unlike other forms of entertainment is far more generic, by its very nature it transcends boundaries. Alternatively, some entertainment forms like TV shows or cabaret or musicals appeal to different types of people in different ways. Gambling is more straight forward. You either do it or you don’t. For this reason, it is far less easy to pigeonhole gamblers by lifestyle or sexual orientation for example.

Pandering to a niche market means that you will always alienate at least one other group. This makes little or no business sense. When setting up a gambling company the smart play is to be as inclusive as possible. there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, you cannot always guarantee a steady stream of valuable players from any niche group. If players in your target niche go broke or go elsewhere what do you do? Secondly, with so much competition amongst gambling companies, it makes no commercial sense to alienate one large income group in favour of a smaller niche one.

Sponsor a Premier League football club

Photo by who?du!nelson on Unsplash

I know what you are thinking here. Surely sponsoring EPL clubs is the fastest way to iGaming immortality and the riches that that brings. Well, yes and no. Sponsoring EPL football teams is a very costly affair and frequently the returns are not as great as you might imagine.

Half of all EPL teams have gambling sponsors at a combined value of £350 million. The Dafabet sponsorship of Norwich FC, a relatively small online sportsbook and casino with HQ in the Philippines and a team permanently in a relegation battle have a shirt sponsorship deal worth more than £3 million. Certainly it costs less to just be an official gambling partner as opposed to having a shirt sponsorship, but even then you are looking at £250,000 – £500,000 just to have your name linked with the club. Yes you will have some access to the fan database for a couple of mailshots every month, and yes you will get 3 minutes of pitch side advertising each half plus a link on the teams website and some free seats for home games but the best you might hope for is to break even over the course of the season.

Sponsoring a team in the Premier League is an attractive branding exercise but you also run the risk of alienating fans from opposition teams.

Aggravate your affiliates

Affiliates can be your greatest asset. They can also be frustrating, demanding and greedy. Nevertheless treat them well and they will provide you with a steady stream of players. Of course those players may well be of varying quality but they will keep coming.

In order to keep affiliates happy you need only to pay them on time and pay them a rate commensurate to the work that they put in. Provide them with the tools and they will do the job. You should include a good selection of JPG and GIF banners in varying sizes, logos, text links, screenshots and XML feeds in the resources you make available. Keeping these guys happy should be a priority. Most affiliates now have a lot of experience in online gaming and a wide reach and influence with players. Mess them about over money matters or short change them in terms of customer service and the negative PR that they are capable of generating can do great damage to your brand. Choosing your affiliates wisely and maintaining good relationships with them will go a long way to ensuring your success.

Turn your social media into a snore-fest

Photo by Tim Bish on Unsplash

It is far too easy to take your social media outlets for granted. For many gambling companies, social media such as Facebook is merely a ‘must-have’ accessory as opposed to a lead generation or acquisition tool. Yet, if used wisely a company’s social media presence can pay dividends.

Merely posting endless descriptions of your latest slot game or details of upcoming promotions on Facebook is not enough. If your social media posts are boring and uninspiring then what picture does that paint of your online casino.

Try to include as much video content as possible. If you have a good creative department put them to use coming up with content that is exclusive to your social media and not merely re-posting your old blog posts. Memes are also popular and fun and generate a good response from your followers. Get as creative as you can be and aim for humour. Run online competitions that are only available on your social media outlets and publicise these using your newsletters and CRM. Competitions and quizzes are a great way of engaging with your followers and eliciting feedback.

Post regularly and post high quality content (quality over quantity) and it is possible to interact with your players. If your marketing department is less sophisticated then you may want to consider outsourcing your social media to a digital marketing agency.

How often should you post on social media?

  • Facebook: Post 1-2 times per day. HubSpot’s research found that results varied based on how many followers you have. But for most brands, posting more than twice a day means you’re likely to see less engagement per post.
  • Twitter: Post 5-10 times a day. On the fast-moving platform, more is generally better so you increase your chances of being seen. Try to spread your posts out across the day for maximum impact. On most days, users are most active between 8 am and 4 pm.
  • Pinterest: Post 5-30 pins a day. Buffer’s research suggests starting with 5 pins if you don’t have much content, but going up to as many as 30 if you can, as more pins lead to more exposure and engagement.
  • LinkedIn: Post 20 times per month, or about once per business day. LinkedIn’s research shows that, with that frequency, you should be able to reach 60% of your audience on the platform.
  • Instagram: Post 1-2 times per day. Union Metrics found that top-performing brands on Instagram post an average of 1.5 times a day.

Source: https://www.volusion.com/blog/how-often-should-you-post-on-social-media/

Populate your blog with ‘how-to’ tutorials

It may seem like a great idea to post ‘how to play’ tutorials to your blog but other than for SEO their value is poor. There is so much content available to players on the internet now that posting more of the same is superfluous. Get creative with your blog posts or consider seriously whether it is necessary to have a blog at all.

Take a chance with compliance

I cannot stress this point enough. Do not take chances with your compliance matters. Hire yourself an extremely competent compliance officer with good gaming knowledge and experience, and an AMLRO and take your compliance seriously. There is little point in building up a successful online gambling business only to be hit with a huge fine by the Gambling Commission for compliance violations.

2017 saw online gambling operator Casumo (a casino!) falling foul of the ASA after one of its affiliate marketing partners ran an advertorial claiming that a man from the UK man had paid off his cancer-stricken wife’s £130k medical bills following a big slots win.

Just last year Casumo again got hit for fines totalling £5.85 million by the UKGC for compliance and responsible gambling violations. Other casino sites including Videoslots (£1 million), Daub Alderney Ltd which is part of the Rank Group (£7.1 million) and 888 holdings (£7.8 million) all got spanked for huge fines for failing to put satisfactory responsible gambling procedures in place.

It is not only the UK that takes responsible gambling and compliance with advertising standards seriously either. Casumo again was fined a further €310,000 by the KSA (Dutch gambling operator) for unfairly targeting Dutch players. Online gambling is prohibited in the Netherlands. Similar fines have been handed out to 1xBet and William Hill. Although these fines are considerably lower than those given out by the Gambling Commission they still represent a considerable rap on the knuckles for online gambling operators.

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