In this blog, I’ll breakdown the reasons why former soccer sensation Michael Owen’s actions violated UK laws. Criticized for tweeting promotions about a crypto casino, which did not register with the UK Gambling Commission, the star violated gambling regulations.
Punt Casino announced Owen as the company’s brand ambassador. The former striker appeared in commercials and digital ad campaigns for the casino, which also attributed a quote to him. The quote endorsed Punt Casino, calling his partnership with the platform “a natural fit.”
On a separate matter, the country’s Advertising Standards Authority ordered the former striker to also stop promotions for an NFT. The non-fungible token claims it’s the first NFT, which won’t lose its starting value.
Continue reading for detailed information about UK gambling laws and how Owens ran afoul of regulations.
Punt Casino is licensed by Curacao’s (GCB) Gaming Control Board. GCB regulates Curacao’s lotteries, bingo games, scratch cards, as well as online and land-based casinos. Curacao’s license is usually the first one new casino operators consider because it offers reasonable pricing and easy requirements for licensure. With no separate gambling divisions, the region's one gambling license covers all forms of casino entertainment. Casinos need only register a business in the region and pay reasonable licensing fees. Licensing standards are simple, allowing most start-up casinos the opportunity to obtain licensure with little red tape.
Regulatory licensing in the Caribbean has reputation for lenient processes for approval. It is not clear if Punt’s Curacao license allows the company to operate in the UK. However, the UK Gambling Commission’s regulations are straightforward. The Commission requires casinos to obtain a UK license to legally advertise to British citizens. After Owens’ tweets, regulators blocked the casino’s access to UK internet users.
ASA intervened in Owen's support of NFTs. The non-fungible tokens denote ownership of a virtual asset, which may include digital art, music, games, or trading cards. According to Owens, the code within the NFTs he promoted prevents owners from selling the assets for less than the initial value. However, ASA notes that if the value drops and no one wants to buy the NFTs for the initial value, the owners are left with a worthless asset.
Noting the fluctuation in pricing for digital assets, the Authority is reviewing the NFT advertising framework in the UK market to ensure that companies do not mislead British citizens. The review is especially pertinent given the way that NFT values have plummeted after high values in 2021. Average NFT prices have lost more than half their value.
Since professional football in the UK is a major advertising target for brands, Owens is familiar with gambling advertising. Half the Premier League clubs showcase gambling brands on their soccer shirts. This fact has prompted a review of the UK’s 2005 Gambling Act by the country’s regulators.
Gambling ads for soccer uniforms in the league are worth a combined $80 million, which is prompting the UK to consider a ban on sports sponsorships by gambling brands.