Gambling operators pledge to ban TV adverts before the watershed

United Kingdom

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

The gambling sector will no longer promote sign-up offers to new customers on television before 9pm in a move to protect young people and vulnerable adults.

The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG), the watchdog established by the industry’s main trade associations, announced the new amendment to the Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising following its review into gambling advertising. For the full IGRG report, click here.

The Chairman of IGRG, Barry Hardy, said:

“The gambling industry has a responsibility to ensure that it takes all reasonable steps to minimise the extent of problem gambling and to prevent underage gambling. The changes to the Code will add to the safeguards that are already in place and will further raise awareness of the need for consumers to keep their gambling fully under control. The possibility of additional improvements remains open and we will be instigating an on-going review programme.”

Wanda Goldwag, the Independent Standards Commissioner of the Senet Group, the voluntary body comprising some of the industry’s largest companies, added:

“We welcome the tightening of the Code, which should contribute to reducing potential gambling-related harm. In particular, the requirement that free-bet incentives to new customers be prohibited on TV before 9pm is an excellent move to reduce the exposure of children and young people to such incitements.”

The IGRG’s review was part of a wider review on gambling advertising initiated by the Government in 2014. The Committee of Advertising Practice, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Gambling Commission conducted the reviews on behalf of the Government.

The Committee of Advertising Practice concluded that it was satisfied that the current rules were sufficiently protecting young people and vulnerable adults, and that the evidence did not indicate a need to change to the rules. Similarly, the ASA concluded that it was satisfied that its enforcement of the rules in response to complaints on gambling adverts is adequately protecting young people and vulnerable adults.

The Gambling Commission, for its part, made the decision this year to strengthen provisions in its licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP) by requiring the advertising of promotional offers, such as free bets and bonuses, to adhere to the CAP/BCAP rules and guidance and that advertising must be open, transparent and not misleading.

Sports Minister Tracy Crouch welcomed the amendments to the Code but suggested that further steps may be required to protect users of social media:

“I welcome the IGRG’s steps taken to strengthen the industry code and end sign-up offers on television before 9pm. However, I also want to see gambling operators, regulators and social media firms come together to examine if more needs to be done to ensure that marketing for gambling products is not reaching young people through social media.”

“I will continue to look at the issue of gambling advertising regularly and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary to protect people from being harmed by gambling.”

Other measures announced by IGRG, which will also come into force in February 2016, include:
  • pre-watershed television advertising must not make reference to other gambling products that would not normally qualify for pre-9pm exemption;
  • a requirement to have socially responsible gambling messages at the end of all television and radio adverts;
  • a requirement that operators make the site more prominent in print and broadcast ads, and that reference is made in all television sponsorship; and
  • print and television adverts must also include messaging to make it clear that the product being promoted is only suitable for those over the age of 18.