Update on gambling advertising consultation

United Kingdom

Following a consultation, which was aimed at responding to the findings of the GambleAware Final Synthesis Report, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) have published an interim statement on their progress on proposals aimed to address issues raised by the report. Of the four questions dealt with in the consultation, the interim statement addressed the following two:

  • Do respondents agree with the proposed additions to the gambling advertising: responsibility and problem gambling guidance, and are there any additional provisions which might be added to better protect vulnerable adults from ad content with the potential for gambling advertising-related harm? (Question 2)

  • Do respondents agree with the proposed amendments to the introductory section of the CAP and BCAP Code’s gambling rules? (Question 4)

Newly strengthened guidance on the protection of adult audiences

In respect of Question 2, CAP and BCAP had proposed amending the guidance with the aim of reducing the likelihood of gambling advertising appealing irresponsibly to vulnerable adults and, in particular, adults with problem gambling-related issues.

The respondents to the consultation consisted of members of the gambling industry, academics and charities interested in preventing gambling-related harm. Overall, most respondents agreed with the proposals but those in the industry with objections argued that the existing rules were sufficient to cover the issues identified.

There were further comments from respondents that there should be greater clarity on certain phrases used in the proposals. It was requested that more information should be provided to explain certain terms to ensure that the proposals could be implemented effectively and to avoid confusion for marketers.

Therefore, CAP and BCAP concluded that there was a “robust basis” to update the guidance in line with the proposals. However, it acknowledged that the proposed wording should be amended to ensure clarity.

On that basis, the guidance will be updated to take account of the following marketing approaches, which will each be likely to breach the advertising rules if used:

  • presenting complex bets or other gambling products in a way that emphasises the skill, knowledge or intelligence involved and could therefore lead to erroneous perceptions of risk or control;

  • presenting gambling as a way to be part of a community based on skill;

  • stating or implying that offers (such as those involving money back, ‘free’ bets or bonuses, or enhanced odds) are a way to reduce risk;

  • reinforcing a sense of impulsiveness or urgency in respect of emphasising the immediacy of an event or the need to participate before the odds change;

  • using humour or light-heartedness to play down the risks of gambling; and

  • presenting unrealistic portrayals of winners and how easy it is to win.

The guidance will also be updated to state that particular care should be taken when depicting groups of  people in ads that are likely to experience financial pressures – for example, students.

Technical updates

The consultation also explained that there was uncertainty on how the CAP and BCAP Codes related to the wider regulatory framework. There were no material objections to the new proposals, which suggested revisions to the introductory text to CAP Code section 16 and BCAP Code section 17. Therefore, the proposals were implemented as drafted. In summary, the changes will provide:

  • more detail on the statutory underpinnings of the rules;

  • a simplified and harmonised explanation of the scope of application of the gambling rules;

  • a new provision allowing the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to apply principles from the gambling rules to advertising for non-gambling operators, where it is likely to have the effect of promoting gambling; and

  • clarification on the territorial application of the advertising codes, including in relation to Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Implementation

The revised guidance will come into effect on 1 November 2021.

The technical updates to the CAP and BCAP Codes do not result in any change in advertising policy but will be reflected in the codes shortly. The consultation is set to have its final outcome by the end of 2021.

Co-authored by Abigail Atoyebi