Posted on: August 10, 2022, 12:38h. 

Last updated on: August 10, 2022, 01:37h.

Sometimes, it seems like Flutter can’t win even when it’s playing by the rules. The global gaming company’s Sky Bet operator is under fire for profiling users, which is part of the process of offering a responsible gambling solution.

Sky Bet lounge
A lounge in Sky Bet’s office waits for visitors. The gaming company faces new accusations that it it targeting gambling addicts to draw them back in. (Image: Pinterest)

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has received a complaint about the profiling, according to the Financial Times. An anti-gambling group claims that Sky Bet is using the data to develop profiles on gambling addicts.

That much is likely true – there’s no other way to ascertain who may or may not be prone to gambling problems. However, the complaint states that Sky Bet is then targeting those addicts with dedicated advertising.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

Lobby group Clean Up Gambling, which has an established history of lobbying for changes in the gambling industry, informed the ICO about the alleged profiling. It referred to a report it commissioned a few months ago that allegedly showed how Sky Bet created profiles using thousands of data points. The operator then allegedly shared the data with other organizations.

Clean Up Gambling’s Matt Zarb-Cousin, in comments to the Financial Times, accused Sky Bet and possibly others of abusing data collection exercises. He added that it was a clear example of “profiling being harnessed” to proliferate gambling addiction.

The truth, however, is not as scandalous. Flutter responded to the accusations, highlighting how profiling is a necessary part of its operations in order to develop responsible gambling programs and adhere to legal requirements.

Protecting our customers and their personal data is of paramount importance to Sky Betting & Gaming and other brands in the Flutter Entertainment group. We also expect the same levels of care and vigilance from our partners and suppliers,” said Flutter.

Despite the response, the damage is done. The ICO acknowledged that it will investigate the complaint, as well as the use of targeted advertising by gaming operators. This will become part of a larger initiative, the ICO25 Plan, which focuses on the use of technology by companies in their consumer marketing efforts.

The report surfaced at a bad time for Sky Bet. The operator recently renewed an ongoing agreement with the English Football League, now entering its tenth year. The partnership will see Sky Bet introduce a greater emphasis on responsible gambling, including through safe gaming messages on teams’ sleeve badges.

Advertising Landscape Changing in Europe

There are calls for changes to how gaming companies advertise across the European Union (EU). In addition to these, the EU is adopting new rules that will impact operators around the globe.

The upcoming Digital Markets Act (DMA) targets the Internet’s “gatekeepers.” It will make it much more difficult for online companies to lead blanket marketing and advertising campaigns. The legislation restricts who has access to what information and how data can be shared.

A gatekeeper is a “company that provides a core platform service in at least three EU member states.” It also must have at least 45 million monthly users and 10,000 yearly active business users. In addition, it needs to have a turnover in the EU of at least €7.5 billion (US$7.74 billion) or a market capitalization of at least €75 billion (US$77.4 billion).

Another piece of EU legislation, the Digital Services Act (DSA), among other things, “establishes a ban on advertising based on profiling and using special categories of sensitive data.”

Both need final approval to become law (the European Parliament and European Council have to sign off). The DMA could possibly arrive first, as early as this October. The gatekeepers needing to comply with all provisions no later than February 1, 2024. The DSA would be in force no later than January 1, 2024.

The intention of the DSA is really to facilitate individual freedom online by preventing illegal content. However, the DMA and the DSA in tandem can have an impact on targeted advertising. As a result, gaming operators may have to become more creative in attracting new users.