Poor Image and Record Fines Plague Gambling Industry
It’s no secret that the gambling industry has a less-than-stellar image among the public, to put it nicely. It has been around in some form or another since time immemorial, and is widely seen as one of the main hallmarks of the more…unruly side of society. And practically everyone knows that not too long ago it was largely a mafia-controlled industry in many places, and still is in many cases. It’s an association that doesn’t seem to be going away very easily either.
However, all of this isn’t stopping the major industry players from pouring vast amounts of resources into campaigns that try to present a cleaner and more wholesome image. One major issue though is that their words haven’t exactly been matching up with their actions, as there was a record amount of fines issued globally in 2022. On the surface it may just seem like a natural effect of increased expansion into new areas – but the largest fines (by far) were issued in the UK and Australia, which are quite mature markets by comparison. A neutral observer would probably wonder if the poor image of the gambling industry has any negative impacts on either the potential for fines or the size of the fine. This is certainly not to excuse their actions and poor judgment though, as I’ve written plenty about the unfair practices that harm users and the industry as a whole.
Most of those in the gambling industry agree that there is an image problem, so that is a starting point at least. Many have opined on it publicly and made the rounds to whatever media they can, but not as many offer viable solutions. Much of the solutions that I’ve seen so far seem to boil down to more of the same, which is largely a constant barrage of endorsements from athletes/celebrities and a whole lot of whitewashing to make it seem more palatable to those mythical and ever-elusive ‘recreational bettors’. Though to a large number of actual bettors it mainly comes off as too artificial, unnecessary, and sometimes even crosses the line into outright deceptive. Alienating many of your most active users doesn’t quite seem like an optimal strategy though.
It does seem that a few operators are starting to ease down the marketing spend and step back to reassess the current situation. This seems like the right call for a number of reasons. Media has been saturated with gambling ads for quite some time and practically everyone is seeing diminishing returns on a marketing spend that was already being seen as unjustifiably high. In the US especially as we still have many more states opening up, so it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. Also regulators have increasingly been cracking down on various marketing tactics employed by the gambling industry, so it is probably wise to avoid pushing the envelope until things become a bit more clear in this regard.
Since all of the whitewashing really is little more than swimming against a strong current due to the past and present of gambling, a potential option would be to simply embrace the image to some extent. It has been a substantial part of human society from practically the very beginning and its unique blend of math and philosophy, exhilarating wins and soul-crushing losses, has continued to challenge us just as much today as it did to our ancestors. One can pay homage to the good and/or popular parts of a complex and ancient industry while still acknowledging the bad. It’s a far more realistic set of standards and much easier to show that things are at least trending in a positive direction. Certainly much more honest too, and it’s something that the bettors could appreciate a great deal more than whatever all of this overpriced overly-sanitized corporate garbage is.
Perhaps the most important thing that can be done at this time would simply be to listen more to the actual bettors. It’s very low cost to put together a solid working group, and I’m sure most have tried it, but the feedback clearly isn’t making its way up to the decision-makers. Pretty sure most bettors aren’t saying “You know what we really need to spend big money on? A bunch of cheesy Kevin Hart ads!”. Possibly same for the upcoming Gronk stunt too, but the only sure thing for now is it will be quite polarizing. It’s creative, I’ll give it that, but starting a trend like that could create a big opportunity for anti-gambling groups to inflict further damage on an already poor image.
Speaking of the gambling harm and other anti-gambling groups, the current strategy of just paying them off doesn’t seem viable for the long-term. If anything it has only seemed to embolden them, incentivize them, and provide them with resources to further attack the gambling industry and damage its image in order to extract increasing amounts of money. With so much money going towards lavish conferences, expensive trips, and many other perks – one has to wonder how much resources are actually trickling down to the people who are truly affected and in need of help.
Everything seems to lead to the need for operators to reduce the percentage that they hold. Marketing likely isn’t going to bring in enough recreational money to justify the cost, and even if it does, the anti-gambling groups and the states will demand more and more. And most importantly, a huge segment of bettors simply will not tolerate a high hold percentage and will seek out other alternatives. The major issues here though are that operators already have some rather long-term commitments with states and various groups.
As the saying goes – the early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese…and it remains to be seen which of these will be true in this specific case. I truly hope that competitors won’t be afraid to take a shot at the gambling industry if they have good ideas and are genuinely well-meaning, because this is an industry that is desperately in need of some serious competition. There is a great amount of opportunity in return, especially for blockchain-based solutions as many users are already comfortable with and supportive of the technology.