Following the launch of the gambling market, it was predictable that the question of the individual operators’ advertising policy will become even more pressing. I am not a judge or a prosecutor to adopt legal conclusions, so I will say carefully and diplomatically: not all legal gambling operators’ advertising is in line with social responsibility principles set out in the special law.
What lessons should be learned from this situation by both business and the state?
(1) In general, there is an obvious lack of the transition period that was washed away by the waves of amendments during the adoption of the law on legalization. Having the transition period, we can be less emotional when discussing numerous aspects of the gambling market.
(2) Business needs to understand that aggressive advertising leads to people’s discontent. It is important to preserve the patience of the population. Otherwise, in a few years, it will be difficult to predict the behaviour of politicians – not only populists but even those politicians and leaders who actively stood for the legalization.
(3) Operators should not become toxic to all supporters of gambling legalization and development. We need to bear in mind that the market is very small, and violations of the law and internal rules by one gambling operator will be perceived by the population and the state as a shadow cast over the entire market.
(4) Business consultants of gambling operators should explain to marketing departments that aggressive gambling advertising will not attract visitors to their online or offline establishments. Not all politicians with their faces all over the city win elections. Advertising is a sensitive matter directly linked to individual emotions.
(5) The law was adopted and established basic legal principles. However, the latter canbecircumvented within the framework of thegeneral legislation. The implementation of the law is not always clean and fair, as required by the Constitution and the institution of the law itself. Thus, we need a document in the form of a Memorandum on Advertising concluded between market participants, which may or may not have legal force, but will be perceived as a code of conduct and confirmation of incurred liabilities.
(6) A deviation from the provisional code of conduct or behaviour related to advertising and accepted by the market participants will mean the desire of an individual entity to give up on all social responsibility and corporate culture, thus causing negative consequences for the entire market.
(7) Violation of the adopted Memorandum on Advertising will allow government agencies to respond more firmly than ever before. The market must comply with the law, otherwise,the gambling sector will fall out of favour, and that would be perfectly justifiable.
(8) A simple recommendation for the operators: behave in such a way that would allow you to avoid criticism from populists or opposition, otherwise there will be nothing to advertise. Always keep in mind the electoral base and its political mood.
Alongside the aforementioned, I would also like to inform you that it is not just words. We, the Ukrainian Gambling Council, developed a Memorandum on Advertising a week ago, and the operators are harmonizing it among themselves. Following the consensus within the UGC, it will probably become relevant to suggest our draft document to the entire market for discussion. We will keep you updated on this.
UGC is developing this document not as a publicity stunt. Operators within our Council clearly understand the risks of a lack of understanding by individual actors of the seriousness of social responsibility violations for the market and the reform in general. We all had a difficult journey and we do not want to jeopardize the reform that the state has been expecting for over 11 years. We need to work to maintain the positive trend, strengthen and develop the gambling market. These goals cannot be achieved through legal manipulations. We need to behave in such a way that market players are trusted and not perceived as scammers. Legal operators should stay away from illegal players’ way of thinking. You cannot constantly cheat and challenge the state saying “prove that I did wrong” because sooner or later the state will prove everything to everyone, even to those who considered themselves demigods. This is the nature of power, and we are not the ones to change it.
Anton Kuchukhidze, Chairman of the Ukrainian Gambling Council, exclusively for the “Ukrainian News”