Paid marketing is the primary means of driving traffic for most online marketers. But in most countries, casino affiliates aren’t allowed to do so. The UK is one of the few nations allowed to pay for online gaming ads on Google. That means UK players have more options for finding places to play, UK operators have more branding opportunities, and UK affiliates get another traffic source for potential conversions — as long as they’re also UK residents. (More on that below).

Market Share
Gaming affiliates in the UK may be dealing with a slightly smaller market than affiliates in the U.S., but they also have a huge natural advantage: Online gambling isn’t illegal there, but regulated by the government.

Because of that, the major search engines (Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!) allow advertisers to pay for online gambling ads in the UK — something not possible in the United States.

And that opens the door to a huge market. According to the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), gross gaming yield (GGY) for online gambling in 2008 was €16.39 billion ($37.4 billion US, £23 billion GBP) worldwide.

“Approximately, €4.7bn of this total comes from the 6.84m European consumers who participate in online gambling (compared to 4.32m consumers in Asia & Middle East and 4.21m consumers in North America).” The UK Gambling Commission pegs the value of the UK remote gambling market at £6.2 million in 2009/2010.

Given these numbers, it’s obvious that Google would like to accept advertising for any online gambling market, no matter what jurisdiction — particularly since, last year, “Google generated 96 percent of its revenue from advertisers,” notes the Washington Post.

Legal Guidelines
So let’s not be too hard on Google here. The company is required to follow the regulations of whatever market it operates in, and if it fails to do so, it’s subject to wide-ranging penalties. The company is currently being investigated in the U.S. by authorities investigating claims that the company allowed illegal pharmaceutical ads. (For its part, Yahoo is even stricter on online gambling advertising. Since Google holds 2/3 of the global search engine market share, we’re going to focus on that company for the purposes of this article.)

In fact, looking at the official Google AdWords review of guidelines for online casinos and gambling, it’s clear that the company offers a more regulated environment than most governments do.

The U.S. market, and most others, are subject to the company’s global rules on casino and gambling advertising, which specifically prohibit the advertising of (in Google’s words):

promotion of gambling, sports betting, or casino games regardless of whether money is exchanged
gambling-related vouchers or promos such as bonus codes
gambling-related tutoring and educational materials such as books and e-books
gambling software
poker odds calculators
many more. Get the whole list here.

Those same rules do allow advertising  for “approved online gambling advertisers”, land-based “bricks and mortar” gaming companies, contests, sales of physical scratch cards, fantasy sports contests, and other mild forms of betting. (Get the full list here.)

Within these global guidelines, Google AdWords has a freer set of guidelines for UK residents, allowing “online gambling advertisements to target Great Britain (England, Scotland, or Wales) as long as the advertiser is registered with the Gambling Commission and provides a valid operating license number,” the AdWords guide states.

So you have to live in the UK, and you have to register with the Gambling Commission, and if your site is subpar, you might not get the necessary approval. And remember that advertisers who aren’t based in the UK, including those “based in the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Alderney, Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Malta, Belgium, or Antigua and Barbuda”, have to be licensed in their country as well as achieving the UK Gambling Commission license.

So if you’re marketing to the UK online casino market, you still have to follow your own country’s guidelines or face the penalties. And, per the Google AdWords, guide, those penalties include suspension of your present (and potentially all future) Google accounts and the disabling of your domain.

Looking to the Future
Let’s face it: At the moment, Google isn’t making it easy for affiliates to advertise in any country. The UK may be the most available option, but there’s still a great deal of hurdles.

So, if you’re going to engage in paid advertising for your casino affiliate website in the UK, despite all this information, you still have to stay on top of the news. Things can change pretty quickly regarding gambling regulations, even in a progressive government like the UK.

In recent days, there’s been a big stir over problem gambling in Canada, for example; that issue could easily reach UK lawmakers. And witness the latest controversy over online casino ads as popular gaming room 888 faces a ban on a recent paid ad, because of a minor misstep regarding the UK Gambling Commission ad rules.

Keep abreast of the Google AdWords guide linked above, and follow the Casino Affiliate Programs Blog closely to make sure your UK iGaming ad practices remain consistent with Google’s policies.

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