Gambling Sites Promote Despite Legal Threats

  • by October 25, 2002
Could some online advertisers be flouting the law?

Representatives in US Congress seem to think so. The House recently passed The Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which, if made into law, could ban advertising by offshore gambling sites aimed at US consumers.

“We have an aggressive marketing strategy pointed to the world,” says Deborah French, marketing executive at BetWWTS.com. “We just happen to have lots of customers in US.”

BetWWTS.com (Bet World Wide Tele-Sports) is licensed and regulated in Antigua to offer telephone and Internet wagering, but many states believe that’s not good enough. Take New York, where Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office took online gambling firm WIGC to court in 1999, contending that the sportsbook was subject to New York state gambling laws despite the fact that its servers were located in Antigua. Or, consider New Jersey. Last year, the state’s top legal eagle sued three offshore Internet casinos for targeting New Jerseyans. Billboard firms were asked to remove the casino ads from their roadside space in the process. BetonSports.com got caught up in that New Jersey net, but nothing came of it.

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“We’re an easy target,” says CEO David Carruthers,\. “The politicians in states that have land-based casino operations and off track betting want to protect their state revenues from competition. It’s a form of protectionism and placating lobbyists from businesses in the states.”

Howard Stern radio show listeners have been reminded lately that BetonSports.com is the place to go to wager on everything from football to motor sports. In Stern-like fashion, Carruthers champions his advertising as free, protected speech.

BetonSports.com applies the same strategy for marketing overseas as it does for the US and aims to be “the Coca-Cola of online gaming.” Besides brand building and courting US consumers through print, TV, radio, email and online advertising, the firm has tried to woo US Senators and Congressman to visit the BetonSports.com headquarters in Costa Rica, all expenses paid.

“None of them accepted our quite philanthropic invitation,” says Carruthers.

BetWWTS.com also promotes aggressively in the US. In efforts that have successfully garnered press from the likes of USA Today and CNN, the firm has released odds on everything from who can scarf down the most Nathan’s Famous frankfurters to who’ll get whacked on this season’s Sopranos. The company just unveiled pre-season NBA odds on “What Will Shaquille O'Neal's Free Throw Percentage Be This NBA Season?” Of course, online banners, affiliate marketing programs, email marketing, print and radio also play into the marketing mix.

As of yet, BetWWTS.com hasn’t come up against any legal action. Concerning the Congressional legislation, French comments, “Since it hasn’t passed we’re not worried as much because as a whole, we’re not totally focused on the US market.”

Carruthers argues that the US would be a lot better off were online gambling legalized here. “I would love the opportunity to bring a portion of my business on shore in the US if the US would wake up and legalize this business. I would gladly pay my taxes.”

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