Information Commissioner’s Office examines complaint alleging gambling industry makes use of profiles to target gambling addicts
The UK’s data regulator has said it is examining a complaint about the way the gambling industry makes use of targeted advertising, in the context of a broader drive to protect the most vulnerable members of society from the misuse of technology.
The complaint by campaign group Clean Up Gambling focuses on the use of tracking technology by Sky Bet, an online gambling site owned by Flutter, the world’s largest gambling company, which also owns Paddy Power.
But it said it believes other gambling firms use similar techniques and has called urgently for more controls of the entire gambling industry, which it says uses profiling to target gambling addicts.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in July said that as part of its new ICO25 Plan strategy it would investigate the use of targeted advertising in gambling promotion.
Targeted advertising is already a controversial issue, and upcoming legislation in the European Union seeks to place limits upon it, but the use of data to promote gambling is all the more sensitive due to its addictive nature.
Meanwhile, government plans to reform gambling laws were put on hold for the fourth time last month.
A report commissioned by Clean Up Gambling in February alleged that Sky Bet and its partners were creating detailed behavioural profiles of subjects and sharing thousands of data points with dozens of third parties to target gambling addicts.
This report forms the basis for Clean Up Gambling’s complaint to the ICO.
Clean Up Gambling director Matt Zarb-Cousin told the Financial Times that the practices represented the “sharp end of data abuse”, with “profiling being harnessed to exacerbate” addiction.
Sky Bet parent Flutter said it uses data to monitor for abusive behaviour and to protect its customers.
It says it uses data to “proactively protect our customers from harm, and to ensure that our business meets its legal and regulatory obligations”.
‘Expect greater scrutiny’
Law firm Bird & Bird said last month that in the wake of the ICO’s plans the gambling industry should “expect greater scrutiny on the use of adtech in the sector”.
“It would be prudent for UK-facing gambling businesses to carefully consider the use of adtech, targeted advertising and marketing calls,” the firm said in a research note.