Meta (formerly known as Facebook) remains an attractive forum for real-money gaming companies looking to advertise their skill-based gaming apps, esports, and fantasy sports offerings. However, Meta has a strict policy that requires an application and approval before any “online gaming” ads can run. The application form is convoluted and complex, and unless you have a gambling license from a state regulator, you will need to obtain a legal opinion from an experienced gaming attorney.
Artaev at Law PLLC has provided consulting, review, and legal opinions to gaming companies since 2020. We also have experience with the Meta/Facebook onboarding and application process. Before Meta’s overhaul of the process in August 2022, the application was much simpler than it is today. The advertiser disclosed their geographic target, acknowledged the requirement for geofencing and age compliance, and submitted a legal opinion that qualified their offering as a game of skill or other type of competition that does not require a gambling license. Now, the application process requires not only a selection of the proper jurisdictions from a drop down menu, it also requires the advertiser to choose which “category” is most appropriate for their game.
For example, when choosing the United States, Meta prompts the applicant to choose the states where the game will be offered. Clicking on a state gives a choice of the types of games that Meta considers available or “allows” in that state. This sublist is inconsistent and does not provide any context as to what types of games fall into each category. For example, selecting Texas gives the advertiser a single option to choose “sweepstakes.” But Texas courts have applied the “predominant factor test” to permit real-money games where skill predominates over chance in deciding the winner. The Texas legislature’s definition of “gambling” also contains an express exemption for “bona fide contest[s] for the determination of skill.” TX Penal Code 47.01. So, while Texas state law permits skill-based games that pass the predominant factor test, Meta’s drop down menu only allows “sweepstakes.”
Gaming companies must also select the protective measures that they implement to ensure compliance with their territorial restrictions and 18+ age policies. KYC checks may also be appropriate depending on the jurisdiction, but again, this is a requirement that varies by country and region. Smaller or startup companies often struggle with navigating the various requirements, but there are qualified third party administrator solutions that offer the necessary services for gaming industry participants.
Finally, unless your company has a gambling license from a state regulator, Meta requires a legal opinion from an experienced and qualified attorney regarding the legality of the game under a particular jurisdiction’s laws. For example, if a company is offering a mobile app game of skill in the United States, the legal opinion will need to address not only the application of federal anti-gambling laws (such as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and the Wire Act), but also the individual states. Each state has its own definition of “gambling,” various exceptions, and judicially-crafted test (such as the predominance or the material element test) that must be applied to the game in question. Also, the laws can change from time to time and must be addressed, such as when Virginia adopted specific legislation regarding certain physical games of skill in 2022.
Once the application and the opinion are submitted, Meta’s initial process is to check the submission for completeness (do not forget screenshots of your landing page!) and send it off for outside counsel review. The review can take as little as 2 weeks or as long as 3 months, depending on the game and the volume of submissions. Before the August 2022 reforms, if the application was rejected, there would be a specific reason and explanation. This allowed advertisers to go back to fix and resubmit their application. Currently, Meta does not give a reason for rejecting a submission. The default message is that advertising of the particular game or app is “not supported.” This is particularly frustrating when an advertiser has waited for weeks or months, just to find out their game is “not supported.” There is no clear appeal process either, and the advertiser is left to guess at how to best resubmit their application – or whether to simply try running ads without prior authorization (which risks Meta disabling the ad account and page).
Advertising on Meta can be a powerful boost to your game’s audience, but it is also a complex process that requires a legal opinion from an experienced attorney. There are many aspects to navigating the various laws in play, as well as KYC, age-gating, and geolocation requirements that are more and more prevalent across the industry. Contact Artaev at Law PLLC today to set up your initial consultation.
Disclaimer: This guide is for general informational and promotional purposes only. Nothing herein constitutes legal, tax, or investment advice. Every situation is different and has its own unique set of challenges. Do not take any action or sign any contract until you have obtained specific guidance from a qualified professional.
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