Compliance: Implement Consumer Protection to Avoid Risking Massive Fines

by Andrew Cardno

The age of sending communication without consequence is gone. In response to massive consumer demand, governments worldwide are getting serious about consumer protection. The pattern seems to be laws are implemented and, at first, are largely ignored (e.g., FCC’s anti-robocall regulations), then fines of hundreds of millions are imposed. While it may not seem like a big deal as you look at your inbox currently inundated with spam, the reality is that CAN-SPAM laws have real teeth and are a part of a new wave of consumer protection sentiment.

Every casino-affiliated email you send runs the risk of substantial fines – ranging from an individual email from a host to mass emails from the database marketing team.

Database Marketing Compliance

The depth of detail that goes into a casino organization’s marketing program involves some of the most complex personalized marketing segmentation of any industry, with the gold standard of marketing involving tens of thousands of segments with individualized offers. The main method of promoting your casino is accomplished through marketing campaign emails (commercial electronic mail message, or CEMM), and these are subject to penalties greater than $40,000 for each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act requirements.

By spending countless hours doing data preparation and segmenting player lists to send out tens or hundreds of thousands of CEMMs per month to your players, not only are your casino’s marketing efforts tremendous, but the fines would certainly be as well if your casino isn’t compliant with CAN-SPAM requirements. Therefore, it’s imperative to ensure these efforts to increase your casino’s revenue haven’t been wasted by ultimately incurring fines for non-compliance.

CAN-SPAM Requirements

There are seven things you should know to ensure your casino’s emails comply with the Act’s provisions:

• No false or misleading header information: the “From:” “To:” and “Reply To:” fields as well as the domain name and email address must be accurate, and they must identify the business or the person sending the email.

• No deceptive subject lines: It is illegal to use a subject line that would mislead people about the contents or subject matter of the message; make sure your subject line accurately reflects what’s in the email.

• Identify that this message is an ad: You must include a clear and conspicuous disclosure that the email is an advertisement; this can be as simple as text at the bottom of the email stating, “This advertisement was sent by (casino name).”

• Give your address: This means providing the address of the casino your CEMM is marketing on behalf of.

• Tell recipients how to opt-out or unsubscribe: Make this information easy to find and understand, and give recipients an email address or a website they can use to opt out or unsubscribe.

• Promptly honor opt-out requests: When someone asks to be removed from your email list, you must delete their name and address within 10 business days.

• Your casino is responsible for compliance with CAN-SPAM: Even if a third-party handles your casino marketing program, it’s up to you to make sure the email messages meet these requirements.

Player Development Compliance

It’s obvious that mass-marketing emails must comply, but what about personal relationship emails from a casino employee to a player? If the primary purpose of the email is transactional or relationship-based, such as a casino host responding to a player’s question about an event or providing a response facilitating or confirming a transaction the player has already agreed to, the host wouldn’t necessarily need to meet the seven requirements listed above. However, the purpose of the email, whether commercial, transactional, or relationship, is determined by the message’s primary purpose.

An example of a commercial purpose might be a host emailing their player, notifying them of an upcoming event and encouraging them to attend because it’s exactly the type of event that player enjoys. This is an excellent example of a host who creates personalized experiences for players by understanding their players’ interests and preferences and appropriately uses that knowledge from the host/player relationship to proactively communicate with their book of business. Although this example demonstrates the ideal qualities of a host who creates deeply tailored brand experiences for their players, they could be violating the CAN-SPAM Act if they don’t, at minimum, have an opt-out option within the email.

If a host sends an email thanking their player for visiting last weekend, this would most likely be classified as a transactional or relationship email; therefore, an unsubscribe or opt-out button would not be necessary to have in the email. However, if this email goes on to describe upcoming events or promotions the player might be interested in, this could be commercial in nature. Although the host may initially intend the email to have a transactional or relationship purpose, if they go on promoting the casino’s upcoming events or offers at greater length, the purpose could be commercial, despite the sender’s original intention; additionally, this example could further be non-compliant with CAN-SPAM if the subject line or heading of the email thanks the guest for visiting the casino because it can be considered misleading based on the overall purpose of the message becomes commercial advertising.

Risk Level

Complying with CAN-SPAM regarding promotional casino marketing offers and campaign mailers is rather simple since these emails obviously serve the commercial purpose of the business, and requirements are straightforward and easy to comply with. However, when it comes to individual emails sent from an employee to a guest, it can be challenging to identify whether the purpose commercial, transactional, or relationship.

Individual personalized emails from a host to a player usually seem like a relationship email from our perspective as operators, and is exactly the type of communication a player development manager would want their host team engaging in to drive additional visits and revenue. Unfortunately, no matter how deeply personalized the email is or what the sender’s true intention of the message is, an email from a host to a player can easily fall under the commercial purpose category.

The safest way to ensure 1-1 emails from casino employees to customers comply with CAN-SPAM is to eliminate the need to decipher what category it falls under by assuming that all emails sent from casino team members to customers are commercial in nature. Therefore, implementing an email standard for employees who directly communicate with guests (e.g., host and player development team members) including an unsubscribe button, the business address, and a message such as, “the email you are receiving may contain advertisement from (casino name),” would provide a solid foundation for organization-wide email compliance with CAN-SPAM.

The remaining aspect of complying with the CAN-SPAM Act is ensuring that all recipients choosing to opt-out of emails have their name and address promptly removed from email lists at least within 10 days of the request being made.

Andrew Cardno is Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Quick Custom Intelligence (QCI). He can be reached by calling (858) 299-5715 or email [email protected].