Gambling companies are facing a new advertising crackdown to prevent them from targeting problem gamblers with free bets and bonuses as well as so-called “in-play” offers calling on viewers to gamble as they watch a live event, such as Bet365’s long-running ads featuring Ray Winstone.
The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) – the body that writes and maintains the UK’s Advertising Codes – has announced the tougher standards on gambling ads as part of continued efforts to make sure regulation prevents harm and promotes responsible advertising.
The 2005 Gambling Act liberalised gambling advertising in the UK and since then, the market has grown significantly with new online platforms to advertise and for people to participate in gambling.
Although evidence reviewed in developing the CAP guidance suggests that advertising does not play a causal or even significant role in problem gambling or harm in general, it pointed to potential risk factors in the form of claims, imagery or approaches that might unduly influence people to behave irresponsibly.
However, the new rules state that ads must not play on individuals’ susceptibilities (financial concerns, self-esteem) or contain anything that might exploit vulnerable groups such as those with problem gambling issues.
The crackdown also includes curbing the “trivialisation of gambling”, such as encouraging repetitive play, and ending undue emphasis on giving punters “money motives” for gambling.
Also banned will be ads that give an “irresponsible perception of risk or control”, such as by telling viewers they have a risk-free deposit or bonus.
The new standards will come into effect on 2 April 2018. The Advertising Standards Authority – the body that enforces the Advertising Codes – will use the standards when considering future complaints about ads.
The majority of complaints to the ASA about terms and conditions in gambling ads are about the requirement for consumers to make a deposit to access their “free bets/bonus” or the number of times they must then wager their “free bet” and deposit money before they are allowed to withdraw any winnings.
The standards also make clear that “money back” offers must be in cash and not bonuses; “risk free” offers must incur no loss to the consumer; and when it comes to “matched bets”, any stake limitation should be treated as a significant condition and stated upfront. The free bets and bonuses standards come into effect this week.
Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice Shahriar Coupal said: “We won’t tolerate gambling ads that exploit people’s vulnerabilities or play fast and loose with eye-catching free bet and bonus offers. Our new guidance takes account of the best available evidence to strengthen the protections already in place, ensuring that gambling is presented responsibly, minimising the potential for harm.”
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