ASA less impressed with gambling ads

United Kingdom

This article was produced by Olswang LLP, which joined with CMS on 1 May 2017.

In our last update we reported on the high level of compliance demonstrated by gambling advertisers over the first few months of the qualified deregulation of gambling advertising. However, since then, the ASA has upheld complaints against a number of operators (including William Hill, Paddy Power and InterCasino) in respect of their advertising campaigns.

The ASA gave a number of reasons for upholding those complaints, including that they would be of particular appeal to children (by depicting cartoon characters or involving slapstick humour and juvenile behaviour), that they suggested gambling could enhance personal and sexual success (by showing winners surrounded by attractive and scantily clad women) , and that they condoned behaviour which could lead to financial, social or emotional harm (by depicting an individual who appeared desperate to gamble at the expense of family life). In addition, the ASA also recently upheld a complaint against an advertisement for the National Lottery on the basis that it denigrated the bingo industry.

It should be noted that by no means have all complaints in respect of gambling advertisements been upheld by the ASA, and it remains the fact that only a small proportion of gambling advertisements have been found to contravene the ASA Codes. However, it is clear that the ASA is growing into its expanded role as the regulator of gambling advertising, and is willing to take action where necessary.

As usual with ASA adjudications, the remedy sought from the offending operator (in addition to placing the adjudication in the public domain) has been a requirement to withdraw the advertising campaign. It is only in the most serious of cases that matters might be referred to Ofcom or action taken by the OFT, and it remains to be seen what might fall within this category. The ASA adjudications are worthwhile reading for operators planning advertising campaigns, as they show precedents for the kinds of advertising which has been deemed unacceptable. Those adjudications are published here.