UK Regulators Institute New Policies on Gambling Ads
The United Kingdom’s advertising regulators are cracking down on the frequency of gambling ads, but CAP and the Advertising Standards Authority also are instituting new policies on the content in those ads. Beginning April 1, the United Kingdom told all gambling operators they must ensure that any social media influencers companies employ in an ad cannot target an audience that mainly consists of minors.
These new guidelines require any celebrity appearing in the ad should “appear to be” over the age of 25. Many popular footballers will not be allowed to appear in gambling adverts, if they are on the younger end of the spectrum for football stars. As part of the expected attraction that comes with them, all animated and licensed characters from film are ban from gambling adverts.
A series of studies over the past couple of years has shown a growing trend of underage gambling in the UK, as well as a rise in student gambling in the secondary and postsecondary educational levels.
A 2019 study showed roughly 450,000 kids between the ages of 11-16 regularly gamble in the UK. The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), who is responsible for writing the UK’s advertising code, said that they take high priority in protecting children from irresponsible ads and that it takes attention and care to ensure that gambling ads do not appear in regularly viewed children’s websites.
Advertising Standards Authority’s New Rules
The Advertising Standards Authority are responsible for enforcing these new rules, though they are not able to follow-up with fines to those who do not follow them.
The regulator introduced a general rule which called on gambling operators to take into account “all the tools available to them on a social network platform to prevent targeting their ads at under-18s.“
The new set of rules comes after a review of the impact of advertising on children done by the Committee of Advertising Practices. Though the review was done five years ago, the results remain relevant enough to make serious changes. CAP took into consideration other complaints the ASA received regarding some adverts and their appeal to children.
Among the advertisements which raised concern were Bookmaker Coral’s three interactive ads that featured an animated wizard, a rainbow, a pot of gold, and a leprechaun, because they were likely to appeal to children. Also, a William Hill promo which was played in a Mario Kart app. In another case, a gambling website had ads with fairy tale characters, including Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. The ASA insisted each case was taken care.
CAP Advertising Limits
Dr. Mark Griffiths, professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University ensures that the gaming industry does not want to attract younger customers. Dr. Griffiths wrote, “The younger [that] people start [gambling], the more likely they are to develop a problem – you want to be in a position where they are starting in their adult lives. For most of the industry now, no one would say they want custom from people below the age of 18.”
Andy Taylor, the regulatory policy executive at Committee of Advertising Practices (CAP), told the BBC that the actual number of young celebs in their gambling ads were low and with the few they do come across they take immediate action.
The CAP executive added, “The industry is well used to the fact that there is a cut-off point, they shouldn’t be using individuals who maybe have that youth appeal, the professional footballer who’s just burst onto the scene.”
“I think we don’t see a massive amount of it, however where we do, we take action. What we want to see is the rules which have applied for a considerable period of time in traditional media, being applied in the online space effectively,” Taylor said. “That means not targeting advertising at children and young people… and ensuring that the contents of those ads doesn’t feature material that appeals particularly to them.”
CAP is Cracking Down in 2019
The crack down on gambling adverts is not a new movement. In fact, it has been slowly making moves over the past couple of years. Last year, the gambling industry confirmed it would voluntarily ban betting ads that play during pre-watershed sport programs beginning the start of the next football season. The sudden reaction to ban came as the threat of regulation came to gambling operators.
Though this change will cut back on the ad after ad being throw at you during a game it will not completely block children from viewing gambling promotions during the game as a large number of gambling companies sponsor team jerseys.
The CAP continues to stay at the forefront of bettering the UK’s gambling market and have continued to fight for those who may not be able to defend themselves. On top of their ongoing work to minimize the amount of youth in gambling they have also in the past banned adverts that depict men and women in gender-stereotypical roles.
CAP’s director, Shahriar Coupal, summed up the watchdog’s conclusions by saying, “Playing at the margins of regulatory compliance is a gamble at the best of times, but for gambling advertisers it’s particularly ill-advised, especially when the welfare of children is at stake. Our new standards respond to the latest evidence and lessons from Advertising Standards Agency rulings and require that greater care is taken in the placement and content of gambling ads to ensure they are not inadvertently targeted at under-18s.”