A consultation was initiated by the Committee of Advertising Practice to improve its rules and guidelines to better protect under-18 and vulnerable audiences from gambling damage.
CAP, the body regulating UK Advertising Codes, stressed that the consultation is said to respond to key findings from GambleAware’s ‘Final Synthesis Report’ which provided the ‘first’ wide-ranging and in-depth picture of the UK’s marketing and advertising effects.
Its results indicate that the innovative content of ads for gambling and lotteries that complies with the UK Advertising Codes has more potential to adversely affect under-18s and vulnerable adults than previously understood.
Shahriar Coupal, CAP Statement Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice, noted: “the consultation proposes a strengthening of our rules and guidance which will help us in our ongoing work to prevent children, young and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling advertising.
“It responds to valuable research commissioned by GambleAware that has highlighted how gambling ads have more potential than previously understood to adversely impact these audiences – that’s something we take very seriously and that we are aiming to address.”
CAP called for input from stakeholders on ‘strengthening its rules on gaming-related creative – imagery, themes and characters,’ which included the key proposals:
- Adopting a ‘strong appeal test’ to decrease the potential for gambling ads to attract the attention of under-18s during broadcast.
- Expanding rules to clarify ‘child-orientated content’ covering characters’ behaviour, language, fashion/appearance etc, which are likely to appeal strongly to under-18s.
- Prohibiting adverts from featuring a person or character, who may appeal to under-18s.
CAP reported that its proposed restrictions will ban gambling marketers from using gambling services to promote / endorse athletes (active and retired), celebrities and social media influencers.
In addition, CAP aims to amend the current prohibition guidance:
- Presenting complex bets in a way that emphasises the skill or intelligence involved to suggest, inappropriately, a level of control over the bet that is unlikely to apply in practice.
- Presenting gambling as a way to be part of a community based on skill.
- Implying that money back offers create security (for example, because they give gamblers the chance to play again if they fail or that a bet is ‘risk free’ or low risk).
- Humour or light-heartedness being used specifically to play down the risks of gambling.
- Unrealistic portrayals of winners (for example, winning first time or easily).
The committee notes that its recommendations seek to find a fair and efficient balance between ‘allowing freedom of advertisement to a legal adult audience for gambling operators and the need to protect under-18s and vulnerable adults.’
In its statement, CAP emphasised that commissioned research by GambleAware did not imply that strictly regulated advertising is a source of harm and contains several results that support the efficacy of the existing regulatory structure.
The statement concluded: “Over a period when gambling marketing spend online has increased exponentially and the range of internet connected consumer devices has revolutionised ease of access to gambling, the overall trend in underage participation in any gambling activity (for example, gambling with friends, fruit machines and scratch cards) has declined significantly since 2011 and adult problem gambling rates have remained stable.”