It’s Time to Cross the Streams

It’s time to cross the streams!

The eGaming industry is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.

“What do you mean, “biblical”?” I hear you shout…

What I mean is Old Testament, real wrath of God type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! (yeah, I did just cite Ghostbusters).

Take your 1984 self off to an alternative dimension where the bodies of Matt Zarb-Cousin and Derek Webb are inhabited by paranormal spirits ghouling around the corridors of the Independent as the Key Master and the Gate Keeper, proclaiming the impending arrival of Gozer the Gozerian.

Well folks, the Traveller has come and we ain’t getting as easier a ride as Spengler, Venkman, Stantz and Zeddemore had with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Fresh from their victory over FOBTs, the Campaign For Fairer Gambling is beating the war drum as it marches towards an online gambling industry that lies asleep in camps spread thinly and disparately around the world, completely unaware of the impending slaughter that awaits unless it wakes the hell up.

Regular fodder for the Independent and the Guardian, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling has now infiltrated the columns of the Financial Times, eyeing up a far from clandestine stabbing of gambling PLC share prices. Tom Watson MP, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, has once again been pushed to the front of Webb’s line armed with his confrontational thesaurus. “Epidemic”; “Explosion” and has gained support from former Tory frontbencher, now Lords peer, Lord Chadlington, which ought to serve as a further warning to those operating in the UK of the mounting pressures most recently embodied by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s crushing of FOBTs.

At the time of writing, there is an incredibly strong rumour that the UKGC is in the process of rescinding an existing UK remote gambling license, which will, if it occurs, serve as the first victory for the CFFG – already armed with the Government’s intention of further raising RGT by a predicted 5%.

Where is the response?

Clive Hawkswood, CEO of the Remote Gambling Association, and Richard Flint, CEO of Sky Betting & Gaming sit as the only two regular voices in press coverage. The RGA, for all its merits, is, to my mind, not sufficiently empowered or armed to fend off the attacks and Flint, for all the strong work he is doing to enhance SBGG’s social responsibility image, cannot take down the Traveller with a lone proton pack.

We do not have the higher ground, but we are not indefensible. This is a heck of an industry and, to my mind, almost universally hell bent on delivering an industry that presents a safe, responsible environment for our UK customers to enjoy the pastime of gambling. Efforts are at play to deliver collective social responsibility programmes to operate on the front line and these must filter down the ranks of every business operating in the UK online gambling industry and beyond to create strong, sustainable messaging – and a true, genuine belief – that we are or work for a trustworthy, customer-friendly business and industry.

From an affiliate perspective, we must do the same and align ourselves with the angle our operator partners take and go beyond that by setting out our own Code of Practice, ensuring we deliver upon it and ensure those willing to do the same work with us to collectively raise the standards we operate to, in order to protect and add socially responsible value to the customers we market to.

We must not burden ourselves with the comparatively trivial tête-à-têtes we have with operator partners concerning commission calculations or even the closure of affiliate programmes. That is not to say these should be ignored, but I would far rather have the likes of Richard Flint in my corner than against me if it came to the fundamental survival of eGaming affiliate marketing if (and inevitably when) such a consequence came under consideration when presented to the government of a regulated gambling market.

As the largest front door to customers in this and any other market, affiliates have a significant role in delivering responsible gambling and social responsibility messaging – and even creating, defining and enhancing what both of those measures actually mean in theory and in grassroots practice.

In what is still a young industry and one in which we have all been all too happy to participate in the taking of chunks out of one another to achieve market share, coming together with a united voice at even an operator level is not easy. To do so on an affiliate level is even harder given the global spread of affiliates participating in the UK market.

Neither are impossible though and both must happen and lead to the ongoing cooperative crossing of streams between the working groups of operator and affiliate bodies, or we are on for the biggest interdimensional cross rip since the Tunguska blast of 1909. If we do what is required, in the words of the legendary Dr Egon Spengler, there’s definitely a VERY SLIM chance we’ll survive.

This article appears in EGR Marketing Issue 39, July 2018

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