Former striker Michael Owen was found to have breached the UK gambling advertising laws by using his account on Twitter to promote an unlicensed cryptocurrency casino to British customers.
The ex-professional footballer, who once played for some of the largest clubs, including Manchester United, Liverpool and Real Madrid, has received instructions from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to take down a promotion for a non-fungible token (NFT) scheme which violated the country’s rules about advertising cryptocurrency products.
In mid-May, Michael Owen published 2 tweets advertising the services of Punt Casino – a gambling platform offering cryptocurrency betting that is registered in Curacao but targets British customers although it does not hold a UK operating licence. Under the provisions of UK law, only companies licensed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) are legally allowed to have their services advertised to local people.
A spokesperson of the online casino platform confirmed that Punt Casino holds an operating permit from Curacao authorities and it has operated in correspondence with the rules and regulations associated with that licence. They also explained that the operator of Punt Casino did not target or advertisе its services to customers of jurisdictions or countries not allowed by the aforementioned operating permit.
Reportedly, after inquiries from some media hubs, the two tweets were deleted from Mr Owen’s Twitter account and the website of Punt Casino was geo-blocked for British consumers. The Athletic also revealed that the Advertising Standards Authority had told the former football star to remove a tweet promoting NFTs, which have been found controversial.
Punt Casino Offered Cryptocurrency Payments under Curacao Operating Licence
Previously, Michael Owen issued a press release regarding his partnership with Punt Casino, saying that he strongly believed in the power of crypto so his collaboration with the online casino felt like a natural thing to do. In the announcement, however, there was no mention of the countries or jurisdictions targetted by the Curacao-licensed operator.
As reported by Casino Guardian, gambling advertising has been extremely widespread in football, so seeing popular former football players promoting gambling services is not uncommon. However, the operator promoted by Michael Owen is quite different from other gambling companies that are currently licensed and regulated by the watchdog of the local gambling industry – the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) – because Punt Casino does not hold a UK licence. Furthermore, Punt Casino accepts payments in a number of cryptocurrencies, unlike other gambling and bookmaker companies targeting UK customers.
According to the UK gambling regulator, the practice of allowing cryptocurrency payments is associated with significant risks of illegal activity or money laundering.
A spokesperson for the ASA has confirmed that under the UK legislation, gambling operators are required to have a licence issued by the UKGC in order to see their services promoted to UK customers. There are also some Asian gambling companies that promote their services in Chinese on English football kits and are not interested in entering the UK market. However, such operators do so under white-label arrangements that force them to abide by UK law. Although this practice has raised certain questions over the last few years, especially considering the constantly increasing pressure on gambling operators, it still remains legal in the UK.
Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.