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CAP warns against promotion of “bad betting behaviours”

Published on 07 August 2020

What has CAP identified as promoting “bad betting behaviours”?

The key takeaway

Any content promoting a gambling product or service which could lead to financial, social or emotional harm is likely to be considered a breach of the ASA rules.

The background

On 23 April 2020, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) issued an advice note stating that gambling ads must be socially responsible and not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour which could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. The note also illustrates various examples of the type of betting behaviours which should not be promoted, as this would likely be a breach of advertising rules.

The development/guidance

  • Not an escape: the guidance starts by stating that ads which suggest that gambling can provide a form of escape from personal and professional problems (such as loneliness or depression), are unlikely to be tolerated. An example was provided of a previous ruling, which suggested that online gambling can be used as a form of “rehab”, which the ASA considered breached social responsibility advertising rules.
  • Never a solution: the ASA continued by urging marketers not to state or imply that gambling can ease financial concerns. The ASA has previously upheld complaints against businesses that suggest that gambling can provide a sustainable income, an alternative to employment or a way to reduce personal debt.
  • Absolutely no pressure: any ads which put pressure on people to gamble are likely to fall foul of advertising rules. Examples of ads which were deemed socially irresponsible by the ASA include those that have suggested that gambling could lead to personal success and an ad which asked viewers “are you a spectator or are you a player?”.
  • Best of the rest: ads should not:
  • – suggest that gambling takes priority in life
    – link gambling to sexual success or attractiveness
    – link gambling to resilience
    – exploit susceptibilities or lack of knowledge of the young or vulnerable
    – condone gambling in a working environment
    – exploit cultural beliefs or traditions about luck.
Why is this important?

CAP’s commitment to social responsibility has been affirmed in the CAP Code and in various rulings. However, there are particular concerns in relation to the COVID-19 crisis and the lockdown, as evidence suggests that mental health issues and anxiety are more prevalent during these challenging times. 

Any practical tips?

The ASA has become particularly focused on the conduct of the online gambling industry. It is likely to crack down on those who produce content which promotes irresponsible gambling or targets those that are vulnerable, such as those who could use gambling as an escape from personal problems and the lockdown. The ASA is also encouraging people to report gambling ads which are seeking to exploit the Covid-19 crisis or the lockdown, for example those that attempt to propose gambling as a solution to the problems that are associated with the current climate, such as boredom.