Opportunity missed: Affiliates and the Virtual Grand National

TAG Media MD Tom Galanis is adamant affiliates should have been given the opportunity to contribute to a charitable cause

The Betting and Gaming Council’s (BGC) decision to host the Virtual Grand National on Saturday and contribute all revenues therefrom to support the NHS is a noble gesture that has received backing from most corners of the industry. Even Tom Watson labelled it “ingenious”.

There are naysayers in the anti-gambling crowd who are labelling it a crass move to push the vulnerable towards virtual sports betting – the Gambling Harm APPG argues – a far more dangerous pathway to problem gambling. While I would tend to see the good in this endeavour – an effort to bring some form of excitement and sporting normality to the public, albeit in a surreal manner – it is incredibly easy to wag fingers at this as a means of maintaining the great branding bump the Grand National tends to bring operators in the UK and for it to be seen as a vehicle to cross-promote a (small) proportion of customers acquired in to more frequent gambling activity.

The altruism acclaim takes a further hit within the industry with the BGC operators’ treatment of affiliate partners in all of this. Coming on the heels of the BGC’s announcement this week that they plan to develop and enforce the adherence of a new code of conduct on affiliates within months, operator affiliate programmes have fumbled the PR football in successive days, going from advocating the promotion of the Virtual Grand National earlier this week to strictly forbidding it today. What is more, in time honoured Grand National tradition, they’ve announced the removal of any CPA commission plans for Friday and Saturday this week.

What an opportunity missed.

There was a real chance for operators to engage affiliates in their positive social responsibility measures. Offer up the chance for affiliates to ‘donate’ any commission earned on Saturday to the NHS (which in theory those on CPA are doing, just without any acclaim). Permit them the opportunity to demonstrate the same social awareness that has suddenly awoken in operator boardrooms.

Perhaps revelling in the headlines, we see BGC CEO Michael Dugher taking to Twitter baiting the anti-gambling hoards with the gambling versus alcohol comparison. Mr Dugher would be wise to focus his time comprehending the more complex issues at play within the industry if he is going to come close to creating a working code of conduct for affiliates by July.

Instead, my takeaway from this is that the efforts of RAIG, its forerunners and the many, many affiliates who have stepped up their compliance and marketing responsibility measures in recent years are being sucker-punched in a brutal one-two combination from the BGC that quite frankly reeks verbatim of the chapter on Social Distancing in the lobbyist’s manual.

Tom Galanis is MD of TAG Media, a marketing consultancy and performance marketing agency serving the online gambling and social gaming industries.

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