Troubled times can bring out the goodness and the shittiness in people. We have seen both every day during the current coronavirus pandemic. People helping out neighbors in need on the one hand, others hoarding supplies from their neighbors on the other hand. Doctors coming out of retirement to help treat the sick, other doctors grabbing all the medication so nobody else can have it. Times of crisis also show who is just in it for the money. One such example was brought to light recently by Flutter Entertainment, parent company of Paddy Power, Betfair, and FanDuel, and soon-to-be parent of PokerStars. In a recent e-mail to affiliates, the company warned against using the coronavirus as a marketing tool.

Affiliates played on gamblers’ coronavirus fears

The message to affiliates and partners was called “Coronavirus and Marketing.” In it, the company told recipients to adhere to the Paddy Power Betfair marketing guidelines and code of conduct and specifically to avoid using “current events in an opportunistic manner.”

We will have zero tolerance on this type of activity and partners will be suspended immediately.”

Getting straight to the blunt point, Flutter said, “Partners are not allowed to reference coronavirus in any marketing materials when promoting PPB brands. We will have zero tolerance on this type of activity and partners will be suspended immediately.”

One example of such practices was given by EGR, which reported that one affiliate sent an e-mail to potential customers promoting its UK-licensed operators as “corona virus safe” casinos.

A dumb and immoral strategy

Now, the obvious critique of that marketing ploy is that it’s stupid. Obviously an online casino is a safe place to gamble if one is afraid of catching the coronavirus. That is, unless you use a keyboard, mouse, or mobile device that was also used by someone infected and not wiped clean (and even then, you might not catch it, but let’s not tempt fate). So to say an internet casino is “corona virus safe” is just cheap and lacking creativity.

But Flutter’s concern goes beyond that. It’s just ethically wrong to do and reflects poorly upon the company. At least 19,000 people have died in a short time span from the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. We’re about to hit 500,000 cases worldwide and the pandemic is still growing. Using people’s fear of disease and death to get them to gamble is a really shitty thing to do.

Flutter did say that repeat offenders will be suspended, but I would take it a step further. Adopt a “one strike” policy for things like this. Everybody makes mistakes or exhibits poor judgment every now and then. So give the offending affiliates a break this time. But only this time. If I’m Flutter and an affiliate does something like that again, that’s it, they are done. Cut them off. Forget a suspension. Bye.

It wouldn’t be easy to do right now. Flutter relies heavily on sports betting and with virtually every league around the world going dark right now, there is not much sports betting revenue coming in. It could use all the affiliates it can get to bring in new customers. But sometimes you just have to make a decision and go with it. Hopefully the affiliates it was addressing with its message did, in fact, get that message and will not take advantage of a crisis again.

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