Bets are off for Ray and Jose as celebrity ad ban looms

ray winstoneRay Winstone may forever be “the daddy” to some and Jose Mourinho the “special one” to others, but they and other celebrities could soon be booted out of gambling ads as part of plans to protect kids and vulnerable people from the betting industry’s barrage of marketing.

The Committees of Advertising Practice, the organisation which writes the codes that the Advertising Standards Authority enforce, has launched a public consultation on proposals to introduce new strengthened rules and guidance to govern the ad industry.

The UK advertising codes already contain specific restrictions around gambling and lottery ads but recent research commissioned by GambleAware suggests that current rules do not go far enough and that ads now have more potential, than previously understood, to adversely impact under-18s and vulnerable adults.

In light of the research, CAP is consulting on proposals 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, from appealing more to under-18s than to adults.

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.

This 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, CAP said.

It is also consulting on an update to existing guidance which would 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.

It would also strengthen the rules to prohibit firms from presenting gambling as a way to be part of a community based on skill; implying that money back offers create security; and using humour or light-heartedness to play down the risks of gambling.

The director of the Committees of Advertising Practice Shahriar Coupal said: “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.”

The shake-up also follows Parliamentary proposals to outlaw all gambling ads on TV and online, which sparked a furious response from the Advertising Association which claimed any ban would have “wide implications, particularly for the support of sports across media channels”.

The proposal, first revealed June, was one of a number of recommendations to emerge from a report by the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, which had been a year in the making.

According to GambleAware, gambling groups spent £1.5bn on marketing in 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available. Even so, betting firms spent roughly £200m on TV ads in 2019 but over £1bn online, a channel which is largely untouched by regulators.

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