Editorial: Cross-Border Gambling Advertising Is Inevitable

1 September 2006

The first time I read about it was in June 2005. The New South Wales Department of Racing initiated legal proceedings against Sportingbet Australia, for placing an advertisement in the promotional magazine (!) for the 2004 Gosford Gold Cup Racing Carnival in New South Wales. Of course I had heard of the regulation of cross-border tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship under the FCTC as well as other cross-border advertising for other products.

After a hearing on June 27, 2005, the court in New South Wales ordered the company to stop the illegal advertising and advised that a failure to do so would result in the company's directors facing criminal punishment.

The decisive action by the authorities in Australia is in contrast to some of the inaction in other parts of the world. The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities has called upon the ministers of Spain and Belgium to stop advertising in the national media for unauthorized betting services; however, this European soccer season has re-discovered cross-border board and shirt advertising.

bwin, which is active in sports sponsorships in Portugal, Austria, Germany and elsewhere, is the frontrunner. In Portugal for example, bwin is sponsoring the soccer/football association and the league as well as a soccer team. Now Portugal's major soccer league has been renamed the "bwin league," and every player in the league wears on his shoulder an emblem with the bwin logo. All interviews and presentations are given with a background showing only the bwin logos. So you cannot miss the bwin aura.

Pro football teams all over Europe are participating in international leagues, such as the Intertoto (specially created by the European Lotteries, for the summertime sports betting), UEFA Cup and the prestigious Champions League.

Consider all of the live international matches, summaries of matches, non-exclusive highlight programs, news, previews, analysis, promotions, photos, radio program and written press reports, and the promotional impact becomes clear.

And because so many national leagues participate in international competitions, there is a great cross-border interest in the results and information of other teams. Nearly all serious sports programs throughout Europe compose weekly or semi-weekly highlight programs.

So it is impossible to ignore cross-border gambling advertising.

The effect is amplified by pan-European sports broadcaster Eurosport, which repeats its two-hour European Goals survey several times a week. Eurosport is the most widely available channel in Europe, reaching over 95 million homes and 250 million viewers in 54 countries. Over 96 percent of Eurosport's viewers can watch their favorite sports in their native language. (It's available in 18 European languages.)

bwin seems to have exclusive gambling advertising rights on Eurosport for sports betting. Above that, the company is advertising on European Fox Sports.

So a lot of gambling advertising across borders takes place with hardly any legal interference.

And bwin, whose legal battles in Europe have been making headlines for months, has succeeded in creating a new name (it switched from "betandwin" to "bwin" in July) and product awareness in a record amount of time.

This should become a new standard case for future marketing students.

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.