New tough UK gambling advertising rules to better protect under-18s take effect from 1 October 2022

It has been announced on the Advertising Standards Authority’s website today (5 April 2022) that, in response to the findings of the GambleAware Final Synthesis Report (on which we previously reported here), the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) is introducing ‘tough new rules’ to ‘curb broad appeal of gambling ads and better protect under-18s’ that will come into effect on 1 October 2022.

The new rules are intended to “significantly impact gambling advertisers looking to promote their brands using prominent sports people and celebrities as well as individuals like social media influencers, who are of strong appeal to those under-18”.

It should be noted that these new rules will apply to advertisements for both ‘gambling’ and ‘lotteries’.

The ASA announcement states:

Tough new rules to curb broad appeal of gambling ads and better protect under-18s

Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) has announced today the introduction of tough new rules for gambling ads as part of our commitment to safeguarding young people and vulnerable audiences.

These rules will significantly impact gambling advertisers looking to promote their brands using prominent sports people and celebrities as well as individuals like social media influencers, who are of strong appeal to those under-18.

The new rules state that gambling and lottery ads must not: “be likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.” 

This is a step-change from the existing rules that gambling ads must not be of ‘particular appeal’ to children. A ‘strong’ appeal test prohibits content (imagery, themes and characters) that has a strong level of appeal to under-18s regardless of how it is viewed by adults.  

In practice, this will significantly restrict the imagery and references that gambling ads will be allowed to use and should decrease the potential for gambling ads to attract the attention of under-18s in an audience. For example, ads will not be able to use:

  • Topflight footballers and footballers with a considerable following among under-18 on social media. 
  • All sportspeople well-known to under-18s, including sportspeople with a considerable volume of under-18 followers on social media.
  • References to video game content and gameplay popular with under-18s.
  • Stars from reality shows popular with under-18s, such as Love Island.

Advertisers have until 1 October 2022, when the rules will come into effect.

In October 2020, CAP launched a consultation to respond to GambleAware’s Final Synthesis Report: The impact of gambling marketing and advertising on children, young people and vulnerable adults. The findings of this report indicated that regulatory changes would help continue to protect under-18s from gambling-related advertising harms.

Our gambling advertising rules have always placed a particular emphasis on protecting young and vulnerable people and we will continue to review our rules, policies and guidelines to make sure that they are effective.

The announcement goes on to quote Shahriar Coupal, Director of CAP, whose following words encapsulate the consequences of the new rules when they come into force later this year:

The days of gambling ads featuring sports stars, video game imagery and other content of strong appeal to under-18s are numbered. By ending these practices, our new rules invite a new era for gambling ads, more particular to the adult audience they can target and more befitting of the age-restricted product they’re promoting.

You can download below:

which the ASA’s website states “should be read in conjunction with …. the Evaluation Tables for Q1 2022 and Q3 2022“.

The CAP/BCAP final statement

The ‘Overview’ section in the CAP/BCAP final statement reads as follows:

The consultation responded to GambleAware’s Final Synthesis Report: The impact of gambling marketing and advertising on children, young people and vulnerable adults. This is the first dedicated body of evidence looking at circumstances in the UK. While this new evidence does not radically change the picture of the impact advertising on under-18s, several findings pointed to the need for regulatory change to ensure the UK Advertising Codes continue to provide effective protections from gambling advertising-related harms.

CAP and BCAP have decided to introduce new rules that prohibit gambling and lotteries advertising from appealing ‘strongly’ to under-18s. These add to the Codes’ existing, well- established framework of protections that limit under-18s’ exposure and prohibit content that might unduly attract their attention and influence them. Introducing a ‘strong’ appeal-based test extends the scope of prohibited ad content from that which appeals ‘particularly’ to under-18s (in other words, creative content that is likely to appeal more to under-18s than to adults) to cover content relating to activities of broader appeal, in particular, sport and video games. One key change will be significant new restrictions on references to football and video game-related activities like eSports; both activities in general have very high levels of participation and engagement among under-18s.

From 1 October 2022, marketers will be required to satisfy the ASA that they have assessed the likely appeal of all content included in advertising to ensure it complies with the new rules. CAP and BCAP have developed extensive new guidance to support their implementation.

As part of the consultation, CAP and BCAP have also made a statement on their media placement and scheduling restrictions. This sets out why CAP and BCAP consider it is most effective and proportionate to focus new interventions on further restricting ad content rather than restrictions that focus on under-18s’ ad exposure.

In terms of implementation of the new rules, it states:

The new rules prohibiting gambling and lotteries advertising likely to appeal strongly to under-18s will come into effect after a six-month period of grace, although marketers are urged to bring new campaigns into compliance as soon as they can. Accordingly, the ASA will begin to consider complaints using the guidance from 1 October 2022. CAP and BCAP commit to review the implementation of the new rules after 12 months.

The CAP/BCAP Advertising Guidance

The CAP/BCAP Advertising Guidance, explaining the new rules, includes (on pages 3-5) a helpful ‘Protecting Under-18s checklist’ (that you can also download below) which provides a short overview of the steps that marketers should take to lessen the possibility of their gambling or lottery advertisements appealing ‘strongly’ to under-18s. We suggest that operators and marketers (as well as – we would suggest – game designers) should start by familiarising themselves with relevant aspects of the following checklist before moving on to the more detailed guidance within the main body of the document:

  • First steps
    • Marketers must also comply with all other rules applicable to their gambling or lottery advertisement, including restrictions on the media, and the audience, to which their advertisement may be targeted.
    • Before considering questions of appeal, marketers must comply with CAP and BCAP’s rules prohibiting the inclusion of under-25s.
  • Principle: restricting appeal of ads to under-18s
    • It is prohibited for an ad to have ‘strong’ appeal to under-18s, irrespective of its appeal to adults
    • Marketers must satisfy themselves to a high degree of confidence that their ad is unlikely to appeal strongly to under-18s before the ad is published. In the event that it investigates a potential breach of this requirement, the ASA will expect to see a detailed assessment as to why the marketer considered the ad would not appeal strongly to under-18s.
  • High-risk ad content/approaches
    • The following summarizes high-risk types of content that should be avoided:
      • Animation:
        • Child-oriented cartoon content or animated styles
        • Characters like ‘cuddly’ or ‘cute’ animals, princesses or pirates with exaggerated features
        • Common fairy tales, like Little Red Ridinghood, and Hansel and Gretel
        • Cultural characters like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny
      • Video-gaming references
        • Characters and graphic styles (including gameplay sequences) similar to video games popular with under-18s
        • Content related to eSports popular with under-18s or themes/features like loot boxes or skins
      • Youth-related content:
        • Clothing styles that are obviously youth-oriented
        • Music by younger artists or those popular with under-18s
        • Youth culture themes like having disregard for authority or social norms, or teenage rebelliousness
  • Activities of inherent ‘strong’ appeal
    • Some activities that relate directly to the gambling product advertised are considered to have inherent strong appeal to under-18s and therefore fall under the prohibition unless appropriate steps have been taken to limit the potential for the ad to appeal strongly to under-18s.
    • These activities include:
      • betting ads on subjects like football, eSports popular with under-18s, and certain prominent events in other sports; and
      • ads for certain other gambling or lottery products, like scratchcards or products that have characteristics of online games popular with under-18s and features (gameplay, content and characters) likely to be of ‘strong’ appeal to under-18s.
    • To help meet the requirement to limit the potential for these ads to appeal strongly to under-18s, reference to ‘activities’ that are the subject of the gambling product advertised must be limited to:
      • Text or audio references to the activity/product
      • Generic depictions of the sport or game
      • Logos of teams/competitions that are subject of a product
      • Advertisers brand logos/identifiers
      • Lottery prizes and good causes
      • Limited use of persons or characters who pass the test set out in the guidance (see table below)
  • Use of persons and characters
    • Marketers must consider carefully their casting of persons or characters to ensure they are unlikely to have strong appeal to under-18s, including by assessing the:
      • roles or activities they are associated with (including potential for them to be viewed in an aspirational or influential way by under-18s);
      • personal profile and following of the person or character (including by reference to social media follower demographics); and
      • the audience or audiences for the roles and activities a person or character is known for.
    • The following summarizes the risk scenarios of featuring different types of person:
      • High risk
        • Anyone with direct connections to under-18s through their role like children’s TV presenters or film stars
        • Anyone with a significant under-18 following on social media o UK footballers who play for top clubs, UK national teams or in high-profile competitions – this would apply also to managers
        • Other prominent sportspeople involved in sports like cricket, tennis and rugby that, at the highest levels, have a significant national profile
        • Leading eSports players
      • Moderate risk
        • Footballers from teams outside the top-flight will be assessed on the basis of their social and other media profile
        • Footballers with lower profiles at top Euro/world clubs might be acceptable
        • Retired footballers who have moved into punditry/commentary will be assessed on the basis of their social and other media profile.
        • Other eSports players dependent on their social media and general profile
        • Sportspeople involved in clearly adult-oriented sports who are notable ‘stars’ with significant social media and and general profiles making them well-known to under-18s
        • A small but notable following of under-18s on social media will be considered alongside the personality’s general profile and could contribute to an ASA decision to categorise the individual as being of ‘strong’ appeal.
      • Low risk
        • Footballers at lower league and non-league clubs
        • Footballers at lesser Euro/world clubs
        • A long-retired footballer now known for punditry/commentary
        • Sportspeople involved in sports like cricket, tennis and rugby that don’t have significant role in the sport or general profile
        • Sportspeople involved in clearly adult-oriented sports (e.g. darts, snooker, golf, horseracing, and motorsports)
    • Targeting exemption
      • The ‘strong’ appeal rules are not applied in media where under-18s can, for all intents and purposes, be entirely excluded from the audience of an ad.
      • Principally, this will apply in circumstances where the marketer is able to robustly age-verify the potential recipients of the ad as being 18 or older.

The CAP/BCAP Advertising Guidance concludes with the following words:

The ASA will expect marketers to provide evidence to demonstrate that the systems used to identify audiences from which under-18s are, for all intents and purposes, excluded are robust.

In general, approaches based on data derived from Gambling Commission license requirements on age verification are likely to be acceptable. As operators’ own websites require logins and their Gambling Commission licenses require a strict process of age-verification on customer sign-up, they are a good example of a media environment where under-18s are extremely unlikely to form part of the audience. Other sources of marketing data may also be acceptable where robust means of age verifications have been employed; for instance, marketing lists validated by payment data or credit checking. More general marketing data, such as that inferred from user behaviour, are unlikely to be considered sufficiently robust.

CAP notes the rapid developments in ad tech and will continue to work closely with the ASA to ensure its policies on sensitive category ad targeting remain up to date. The approach is open to marketers innovating to find new ways to meet the policy objectives.


1.  GambleAware has welcomed the new rules. Its CEO, Zoe Osmond, has said:

It is absolutely right to take precautionary action to prevent gambling problems becoming established among children and young people, so we are pleased to see this proactive measure to protect under-18s from exposure to gambling adverts. We also are delighted GambleAware’s research led to these steps being taken. Our research, published in 2020, showed 94% of those aged 11-17 in Great Britain had been exposed to gambling adverts in the last month, seeing six adverts on average. Nearly two-thirds of this group had seen gambling adverts on social media, while nearly half had seen sports teams, games or events sponsored by a gambling operator.

2.  The Betting and Gaming Council has indicated its support for the new rules, its CEO Michael Dugher stating:

The BGC supports these changes not least because they build on a whole range of measures we have led in recent times to drive up standards and ensure further protections in advertising. In 2019, BGC members introduced the whistle-to-whistle ban on TV betting commercials during live sport before the 9pm watershed, which led to the number of such ads being seen by young people at that time falling by 97 per cent. Our members also introduced new age gating rules on advertising on social platforms, restricting the ads to those aged 25 and over for most sites.

It is worth remembering that according to the Gambling Commission, the proportion of young people who gambled in a previous seven day period fell from 23 per cent in 2011 to 11 per cent in 2019. The most popular forms of betting by young people are playing cards, scratchcards, bets between friends and fruit machines – not with BGC members. The BGC take a zero tolerance approach to gambling by those under the age of 18 and we enforce the toughest possible action.

The regulated betting and gaming industry is determined to promote safer gambling and greater customer protection – unlike the unsafe and growing online black market, which has none of the safeguards that apply and will apply to BGC members.

3. The Gambling Commission has reported on the new rules in its 16 May 2022 e-Bulletin, commenting:

From 1 October the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) are introducing new rules to ban gambling adverts which are likely to be of strong appeal to children and young people. These rules will significantly impact gambling advertisers looking to promote their brands using prominent sports people and celebrities as well as individuals like social media influencers, who are of strong appeal to those under-18.

Download article PDF: Protecting Under-18s Checklist