New rules and guidance proposed for gambling ads with strong appeal to under 18s

As announced in a CAP News item on the ASA’s website (that you can download below), the Committees of Advertising Practice have commenced a public consultation on proposals to introduce strengthened rules and guidance for gambling ads in order to better protect children, young people and vulnerable adults.

The principal consultation proposals are to:

  1.  prohibit gambling ads from having a “strong appeal” to under-18s, rather than merely a “particular appeal” as is the position under current rules, and
  2. introduce new guidance intended to protect under-18 year olds and vulnerable adults from the potential harms that can arise from gambling advertising that is irresponsible

The consultation (that you can also download below) responds to findings within the “Final Synthesis Report: The Effect of Gambling Marketing and Advertising on Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults” –  written by Ipsos MORI on behalf of GambleAware and constituting Annex A to this consultation – about which we reported in March this year.

Whilst reference is made by the Committees of Advertising Practice to those research findings suggesting that the creative content of gambling and lotteries advertising that abides by the UK Advertising Codes has more potential, than previously understood, to adversely impact under-18s and vulnerable adults,  CAP considers overall that such research “does not suggest that advertising subject to strict controls is a driver of harm and includes many findings that support the effectiveness of present regulatory framework”.

Importantly, CAP add that: “alongside that, 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”.

The CAP News item summarises the consultation proposals as being to:

strengthen the rules to prohibit creative content of gambling and lotteries ads from appealing ‘strongly’ to under-18s (currently gambling ads are prohibited from appealing particularly to under-18s; in other words, they are banned from appealing more to under-18s than to adults)

  • ‘A ‘strong’ appeal test identifies content (imagery, themes and characters) that has a strong level of appeal to under-18s regardless of how it is viewed by adults
  • Adopting the ‘strong’ appeal test would decrease the potential for gambling ads to attract the attention of under-18s in an audience
  • Child-oriented content (like animated characters and superheroes) are already banned. The new rules would extend to cover characters’ behaviour, language, fashion/appearance etc, which are likely to appeal strongly to under 18s
  • In particular, ads would be prohibited from including a person or character who is likely to be followed by those aged under 18 years or who has a strong appeal to those aged under 18
  • The new restriction would have significant implications for gambling advertisers looking to promote their brands using prominent sports people and celebrities, and also individuals like social media influencers

and:

update existing guidance to prohibit:

  • 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; and
  • unrealistic portrayals of winners (for example, winning first time or easily)

If implemented, these proposals are likely to have wide-ranging consequences for gambling advertising, including for operators known for injecting large doses of humour into many of their ads. Responses to the consultation should be received by CAP before 5pm on 22 January 2021.

You can access below the following additional documents relevant to this consultation:

Forthcoming CAP consultation on loot boxes

The above-mentioned letter to DCMS flags up a forthcoming CAP consultation on loot boxes, stating:

Noting concerns around loot box advertising – not least from government – we have been examining the need for further regulation of loot box advertising in light of increasing public concerns.

CAP intends to publish a consultation on detailed, formal guidance on how existing rules should be applied to advertising for in-game purchases, including those with a random element. The proposed guidance will include a prohibition on gambling imagery, on the grounds of social responsibility, in order to reflect concerns about the link with problem gambling and the gambling-like nature of some types of loot box. Proposals also include requiring that ads for games containing loot boxes to disclose this fact, and ensuring that the price of in-game purchases is made clear.