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Olympics gambling guidelines outline infringement risks for operators

UK gambling operators will risk infringing the rights of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) if they operate dedicated Olympics betting microsites or promote special offers in conjunction with bets on Games events, according to new guidelines.07 Mar 2012

The guidelines (9-page /536KB PDF) state that operators are not allowed to use "any of the protected Games marks" other than "within factual statements" and that they "must not produce any promotions, adverts, products, special offers, websites, or other promotional media or public relations which suggest or imply that [they are] associated with the Games or that a Games Bet is an official product of the Games.

Under the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act advertisers cannot use any two of the following terms together: 'Games', 'Two thousand and twelve', '2012' and 'Twenty twelve'. Neither can they use one of those terms in conjunction with any of: 'Gold', 'Silver', 'Bronze', 'London', 'Medals', 'Sponsors', 'Summer'. Breaking the terms of the Act could result in a £20,000 fine. Only official sponsors are allowed to use the terms as part of promotions.

However, LOCOG said it can be legitimate for betting operators to use the marks in some circumstances.

"Operators can make statements of fact which refer to the Games in the context of providing information about Games Bets, provided that the statements are informative and proportionate, rather than for promotional purposes (i.e. references should be limited to the basic information which clients would need to know to decide whether to make a bet; for example, ‘Bets on The Olympics available here’ or ‘Hundreds of bets on Olympic events including Football, Tennis and Athletics’)," LOCOG said.

"An association with the Games which would infringe the rights which exist to protect the Games can be created by the use of any words, images or marks or, more likely, a combination of these. For example, athletic images, representations of an Olympic-style Torch and Flame, the colours of the Olympic Rings, words or iconic images which evoke the spirit of the Games, and other representations relating to the Games may each contribute to the creation of an association with the Games," it said.

In detailing what is and what is not acceptable in light of these "key principles" LOCOG said that betting operators should not run websites that are Olympics themed, create dedicated Olympics microsites or use their own branding more prominently on Olympics betting web-pages than they do on pages relating to non-Games bets.

Operators should not associate "references to the Games and information on Games Bets" with "any special offers or promotions (whether these are Games related or not)," the guidance said.

"Special offers are inherently promotional rather than informative, therefore special offers should not be offered exclusively in respect of the Games or on Games related events or Games Bets, and should not be presented as specific ‘Olympic Offers’. Games Bets should not be tied in to promotions for third parties ... However, Operators may make general ‘special offers’ on sports which are included in the Games, without making these exclusive to the Games and without specific reference to the Games," LOCOG said.

LOCOG said that its examples did not confirm whether such activities would "definitely" infringe its rights. Instead, individual promotions will be reviewed according to "a wide variety of factors, including content, context and presentation".

Betting operators that run shops can avoid infringing rights through associating themselves with the Olympics by promoting bets for Games events in the shop window or on boards alongside promotions for bets on non-Games related events, LOCOG said. However, the operators should also be careful how it uses "Olympics or Paralympics sport imagery" in those promotions.

"Use of combinations of imagery of Olympic sports, medals and London iconography on or around the board could mean that it creates an association with the Games," LOCOG said. It added that the window or board promotions should not display references to the Olympics or Olympics bets as belonging to the operator.

Operators are allowed to produce dedicated betting slips for Games betting, but "the slips should be in the same format (size and shape) as slips for other sporting events," LOCOG said.

Betting shops can show the Olympics live on TV screens providing they are licensed to do so, but should not "overlay" any betting odds or add branding "on or around" the screens.

The operators are also prohibited from using data stemming from the Games. Although the official London 2012 website will display some information, such as event start times, operators are not allowed to "reproduce all or a substantial part of the content," LOCOG said. They are allowed to link to the London 2012 website on their own site.

The guidelines also include strict rules on advertising and promotions by the operators associated with Games bets.

"Operators cannot sponsor feature ‘tips of the day’ which are Olympic themed in newspapers or other media; for example, a tip of the day entitled ‘Operator’s Olympic Tip of the Day’ or ‘Olympic tip of the day by Operator’, or which locks up the Operator name/brand with the Games Bets would not be permitted. However, Operators can sponsor tips of the day in the usual course of their business, for example ‘Operator’s Tip of the Day’ which includes tips on Olympic sports events," LOCOG said.

"Operators can produce advertisements containing their logo/brand/name which refer to Games Bets but have no direct reference to the Games (e.g. ‘Phelps to win gold [odds]’ (note that use of athlete name or imagery is subject to restrictions on athlete promotional activity during Games time)," it said.

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