Tougher standards on gambling advertising announced

Today, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) has announced tougher standards on gambling advertising, focusing on ads’ appeal to problem gamblers and on free bets and bonuses. Both sets of standards form part of continued efforts to make sure regulation prevents harm and promotes responsible advertising.

The new standards on problem gambling:

  • Restrict ads that create an inappropriate sense of urgency like those including “Bet Now!” offers during live events;
  • Curb trivialisation of gambling (e.g. encouraging repetitive play);
  • Prevent approaches that give an irresponsible perception of the risk or control (e.g. “Risk Free Deposit Bonus”);
  • Provide greater detail on problem gambling behaviours and associated behaviours that should not be portrayed, even indirectly;
  • Prevent undue emphasis on money-motives for gambling; and
  • Provide more detail on vulnerable groups like problem gamblers that marketers need to work to protect.

The 2005 Gambling Act liberalised gambling advertising in the UK. Since then, the market has grown significantly with new online platforms for advertisers to take advantage of and for people to gamble on.

Evidence reviewed in developing the CAP guidance suggests advertising does not play a causal or even significant role in problem gambling or harm in general. Problem gambling rates have in fact remained relatively stable during a period of considerable growth in advertising volumes.  Although the overall impact is small, the evidence points to potential risk factors in the form of claims, imagery or approaches that might unduly influence people to behave irresponsibly. That’s why CAP is setting tougher standards to tackle any potential for harm. 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.

By publishing the new standards, we are also meeting our commitment as set out in the UK Government’s recent consultation on proposals for changes to Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures. 

The new standards will come into effect on 2 April 2018.  The Advertising Standards Authority will use the standards when considering future complaints about ads. You can read our full regulatory statement on our website.

Later this year, CAP will publish further guidance focusing on the protection of children and young people.

Free bets and Bonuses

Our new standards on free bets and bonuses aim to help advertisers understand the ASA, CAP and Gambling Commission’s current position on acceptable claims in ads and how terms and conditions should be displayed or signposted: significant conditions must always be prominently displayed with an advertised offer. Other terms and conditions of the offer need to be, at most, one click away from the advertising.  Failure to qualify free bets and bonus offers in this way are unacceptable and will lead to sanction by the ASA.

Significant conditions are those which are likely to affect a consumer’s understanding of the promotion, and are likely to include any requirement for a consumer to deposit their own funds, restricted odds, eligibility, wagering and withdrawal requirements.

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.

CAP’s work on this complements the work the Competition and Markets Authority has done to ensure gambling firms are upfront and clear about their promotional terms and conditions, while also making them fairer.

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 today.

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.”

These new standards follow work already carried out by CAP on gambling. This includes producing standards on affiliate marketing in 2017 which applies to gambling affiliates. The ASA has since banned several ads under the new standards. In October 2017 CAP, the ASA, the Gambling Commission and the Remote Gambling Association sent out a joint letter highlighting to online gambling operators the rules on children and gambling and calling on them to remove games which are likely to appeal to children, or risk an imminent ASA investigation.

Find out more by reading our updated gambling guidance, and our guidance on free bets and bonuses.

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