BCLB bans betting firms from using browsers’ speed dial feature to advertise online

Wednesday, August 16th, 2023 12:39 | By
Sports betting.
Sports betting. PHOTO/Courtesy

The Betting Control and Licencing Board (BCLB) has banned betting firms from using the speed dial feature on browsers to advertise online.

This follows protests by the Consumer Federation of Kenya (COFEK), which said that betting firms were using the feature to target Kenyan internet users, without a regard on age.

"Based on our research and consultations with line experts, we hereby confirm that browser providers, such as Opera, have introduced a "speed dial" feature, specifically curated for the Kenyan market. This offending feature, sponsored by betting firms (your licensees), ensures these betting services are prominently displayed, regardless of the user's age, religion and other diversities," COFEK said in a letter to BCLB.

A speed dial in a browser creates visual thumbnails of the user's most visited websites, and the user can visit the websites with one click.

An illustration of a speed dial feature that shows how visual thumbnails of a user's most visited websites are displayed on a browser.

BCLB said the feature has been adopted by the gaming operators to ensure that betting services are prominently featured without due regard to the age, vulnerability and other diversities of the internet users.

"It has come to the attention of the Board that some betting firms are advertising using the 'speed dial' browser internet feature without its authorization. The Board is also aware that this service is targeted at the Kenyan betting market," BCLB noted.

"Of particular significant risk include minors and other vulnerable persons. The Board in conjunction with the Communication Authority of Kenya is consulting so as to give advertising guidelines for the digital channels. It is against this background that the Board demands that all gaming operators cease the use of the `speed dial' browser internet feature offered specifically by the Opera Browser and other browser providers within the next 7 days from the date of this circular."

Effects of speed dial

According to COFEK, the use of the feature exposes children to serious and irreversible harm, going against the government's campaign for the protection of children online.

"The blatant display of betting sites can potentially lead to underage exposure and participation in online gambling, thereby undermining the concerted efforts in place to safeguard the online environment for our young ones," COFEK added.

COFEK says that the speed dial feature, in a single day, is offering five to seven shortcuts to leading betting sites.

"The Opera and Opera Mini and other Browsers are engineered to ensure that once a user logs in to the browser, their first point of contact is undoubtedly a betting site with the psychology behind it being to reinforce and condition the user to spend more time on a betting website," the consumer protection body added.

BCLB has given betting firms seven days to comply with the directive or institute legal actions against them.

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