French gambling regulator l’Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ) has detailed progress on bookmaker marketing guidelines, although rejecting Française des jeux’s (FDJ) promotional strategy.
In a review of 17 licensed independent operators and the two state-licensed companies, FDJ and Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), the ANJ concluded that most firms had ‘generally complied’ with guidelines and recommendations adopted in February and October last year.
French bookies must watch their sponsors
The review of operator’s promotional strategies forms part of a wider state objective to prevent ‘excessive or pathological gambling’ and limit the exposure of under-age consumers to betting-related content.
The ANJ explained: “When examining these promotional strategies, the ANJ’s analysis grid takes into account the balance to be found between the legitimate use of advertising by operators to promote the legal gambling offer and the need not to not encourage excessive or pathological gambling and protect minors.
“The reference framework for the prevention of excessive and pathological gambling and the protection of minors adopted in 2021 offers operational instructions for operators in the implementation of these obligations.”
Providing further guidance for French licence holders, the ANJ outlined ‘several points of vigilance’ for firms to take note of as 2023 marketing strategies are rolled out.
Notably, sports sponsorships were highlighted as an area for caution, with the authority stating that a ‘significant increase’ in such agreements create an association between sport and gambling and make minors and at-risk groups more likely to be exposed to betting.
Similarly, a rise in ‘influence marketing’ was also identified as being ‘particularly popular’ with young people, as 117 content creators, influencers and ambassadors’ are factored into operators’ advertising plans.
Whilst 2023 is ‘less rich in large-scale sporting events’, such as the absence of a World Cup or similar far-reaching football tournament, the ANJ noted that operators have committed to a ‘high level of promotional investments’ of around €630m.
This marks a 6% increase on the year prior, with the peak expected during the Rugby World Cup, whilst the authority added that financial rewards have become a ‘leading item’ in advertising budgets, accounting for 59% of marketing spend.
Similarly, investment has also been observed on digital promotions, having increased 23%, and the FDJ added that overall advertising volume means that gambling is included in the daily life of the French’ is being posited as ‘a product of everyday consumption’.
Concluding its assessment of advertising practices, the ANJ approved the strategies of 18 businesses, whilst calling for the sector to ‘de-intensify’ its activity across all media channels but particularly on digital platforms.
An advertising hurdle for FDJ
The one operator to have its promotional strategy rejected by the ANJ was the aforementioned FDJ, which, along with PMU, faces heavier scrutiny of its marketing due to its status as a monopoly.
As a state-backed provider of sports betting, gaming and lotteries, FDJ was found to have only ‘partially responded’ to the requirements outlined in 2022, and its large-scale campaign plans for this year were deemed to constitute’ significant and continuous publicity exposure’
A focus on the group’s societal contribution was highlighted in particular by the regulator as potentially encouraging gambling by establishing a direct link between its products and a ‘cause or general interest, likely to trivialise or generalise the practice of the game’.
Furthermore, the FDJ lottery marketing strategy was criticised as ‘offensive’, as it promoted the product as one of everyday consumption, particularly by offering ‘bargains’ bonuses and ‘catchy slogans’ such as ‘rain of millionaires’.
“The ANJ board has decided to reject the promotional strategy of La Française des jeux because it cannot be regarded as sufficiently measured and limited in relation to the advertising that a gambling monopoly can legally carry out,” the authority explained.
“Also, the company La Française des jeux will have to file, at the latest within one month, a new request for approval of its promotional strategy, after discussion with the services of the ANJ.”
In comparison, the PMU was deemed to be taking care to moderate its use of incentivising promotional tools, in particular for products seen as having an increased risk of problematic behaviour, such as in-play betting and live poker.
Keeping up the pressure
Betclic, meanwhile, was approved due to its approach to advertising ensuring that any partners, brand ambassadors and influencers used had limited exposure to younger audiences, and all practices were risk-assessed prior to implementation.
A final example saw Vbet receive positive feedback for ‘drastically restricting’ the amount of content distributed on social media platforms with a potentially young audience, as well as ‘good practices’ in influencer marketing.
Similar assessments were made of the likes of Winimax, ZeTurf, Sportnco and NetBet, although the authority reiterated that operators should remain vigilant and ensure their advertising practices remain in line with established guidance.
ANJ concluded: “Finally, in general, in a context where advertising pressure remains strong and where the latest studies tend to show an increase in excessive gambling,the ANJ is considering the advisability of proposing additional measures to the public authorities in the coming months to reinforce the supervision of advertising for gambling.”