UK: Gambling Advertisements - New Rules Deal Casinos And Bookmakers A Better Hand

Last Updated: 24 August 2007
Article by Martin Mosley

Recently the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) and its broadcast arm (BCAP) announced new rules which will amend the current codes of practice and regulate the ability of gambling and betting institutions to advertise their services. The new rules permit much more advertising by gambling and betting companies; for example on television, following the Gambling Act 2005. These rules will take effect from 1 September 2007, the date from which the Gambling Act 2005 will be in force. However the new rules still have significant restrictions to protect the young and the vulnerable.

The New Regulations

  • The restrictions on the content of marketing communications advertising gambling (which includes gaming, betting and lotteries) prohibit:
    • the portrayal, condoning or encouragement of gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm;
    • the exploitation of the nature and attributes of children (under 16), young persons (under 18) or the vulnerable;
    • suggesting that gambling may provide an escape from or solution to personal or financial problems;
    • linking gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness; or
    • advertisements likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture, or which are directed at those below the age of 18.
  • Further to the above no gambling advertisement shall include a child or young person, nor may anyone under 25 years old (or who appears to be) be featured gambling or playing a significant role in any such advertisement.
  • The BCAP rules also restrict the schedules during which gambling advertisements may be broadcast. Radio advertisements must not be in/around those features aimed particularly at those persons below 18 years old, whilst television broadcasts may not be advertised in or adjacent to children's' programmes or those programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal to audiences below the age of 18.

The Practical Effect

  • Careful consideration must be given to the production, content and placing of gambling advertising as the likelihood is the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) will look to enforce these rules rigorously. This is a controversial and politically sensitive area, therefore the regulatory bodies will need to be seen as effectively policing the rules put forward (at least in part) as justification for a relaxation of the current regime.
  • All television broadcast gambling advertisements will need to be cleared by OFCOM's licensee, the broadcaster. This role will be performed by the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre in the case of many broadcasters, to whom submissions will need to be made.
  • All radio broadcast gambling advertisements must similarly be cleared by the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre.
  • There is likely to be considerable future debate over the restrictions on scheduling of gambling advertisements, in a similar manner to that currently taking place around foods containing high levels of saturated fats and salt. Whilst certain programmes may not be commissioned for or particularly intended for children, there are programmes which have a high proportion of viewers from younger demographics that will prevent gambling advertisements from reaching the significant numbers of older (and targeted) viewers watching the same programme.

If you don't comply......

  • The Advertising Standards Authority is responsible for administering the CAP/BCAP rules. It will generally respond to public concerns about gambling advertisements, which can take the form of just a single complaint.
  • Any advertisements found in breach of the rules will have to be amended or withdrawn and will not be allowed to appear in the public domain again. If serious or repeated breaches of the advertising codes occur then the ASA may refer broadcasters to OFCOM and advertisers to the Gambling Commission. The Commission's legal or regulatory sanctions include suspensions or revocations of a licence, issuing fines or if necessary invoking criminal penalties.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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