Just a few months to go now, but still the flow of Olympic regulations, guidelines and controls continues unabated. Now it is the turn of the betting industry, but these guidelines apply only to “activities taking place in the UK and to websites designed for UK customers” as Nick Johnson reports.
Topic: Betting and gaming
Who: London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG)
When: January 2012
Law stated as at: 31 March 2012
LOCOG has published specific guidance for the betting industry in relation to references to the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, and the use of protected Games marks in their communications with customers.
It carries the rather cumbersome and grammatically challenged title: "Brand protection-information for the betting industry. Guidelines".
Like previous tourism sector guidance before it, the document supplements LOCOG's more general "London 2012 Brand Protection: Information for Businesses" booklet. It sets out some key principles and offers LOCOG's perspectives on areas such as how "Games Bets" can and cannot be advertised, use of broadcasts of the Games in betting shops and use of results and other data.
Why this matters:
While the guidance is not a definitive statement of the law, and its analysis may inevitably be biased to some extent in LOCOG's favour, it is likely to be a good indicator of the line that LOCOG will seek to take in particular areas. Betting operators who fail to comply with the guidance in relation to their UK and UK-facing activities should not be surprised if they start getting some attention from LOCOG.
For those outside the betting sector, the guidance – like the tourism sector guidance before it – may not be directly relevant, and clearly one should be a little cautious in seeking to draw more general principles from a document that's focused specifically on one area of business. However there are a few points coming out of the guidance that merit particular mention as being potentially more generally applicable:
– Territorial application: The guidance states that it applies only to "activities taking place in the UK and to websites designed for UK customers". It goes on to state that "if an Operator accepts bets in Pounds Sterling, this will be a clear indication that the website is designed for UK customers". Note this does not state "Pounds Sterling only". This suggests that LOCOG believes internet activity can potentially be caught by the Olympic Symbol etc (Protection) Act 1995 and the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 even if the business and its servers are based entirely outside the United Kingdom.
– "Promotional" statements: In its application of the "honest commercial practices" defences under the 1995 and 2006 Acts, LOCOG's general "London 2012 Brand Protection: Information for Businesses" booklet draws a distinction between "informative and proportionate" uses and "promotional" uses of Olympic references.
– Rights in start lists, results and events statistics: The betting sector guidance appears to take the position that intellectual property rights subsist in all Games-related data such as start lists, results and events statistics, and that these are owned and controlled by the IOC. It states: "Certain information, such as start lists, results and statistics from events, will be published on the London 2012 website. The London 2012 website will be available to the public, however Operators are not permitted to reproduce all or a substantial part of the content."
The guidance in the new betting sector guidelines underlines and arguably develops the analysis in the Brand Protection booklet and in the previous Tourism sector guidance. Note that context and overall presentation can alter the analysis in each case, but generally it seems clear that:
(a) when LOCOG talks about "promotional" use of Olympic word marks, that doesn't necessarily mean all advertising usage.
For instance, "Hundreds of bets on Olympic events including Football, Tennis and Athletics" is given as an example of something that is likely to be OK;
(b) the fact that "London 2012", "Games" or some other formulation of words could potentially be used in place of "Olympic" needn't in and of itself make the use of the word OLYMPIC "disproportionate" for these purposes;
(c) however, Olympic references in the context of special promotional offers that are entirely Olympics-related would generally be argued by LOCOG to be impermissible "promotional" usage. Examples given in the guidance include: "Four free beers when you bet on any three Olympic events" and "Free game of Blackjack when you bet on any Games Football match".
By contrast, offers that are not exclusive to the Games may be OK even if they could apply to Games-related bets amongst others – for instance "Special offers on all bets on Football during the summer of 2012."
The Guidance is at this link: