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The end of celebrity endorsements in gambling ads? CAP and BCAP consult on tougher rules for gambling advertising

Published on 15 January 2021

What will the CAP and BCAP’s proposals for the introduction of tougher measures on gambling advertising mean for the industry?

The key takeaway

CAP and BCAP have launched a consultation into proposals aimed at updating their rules to further restrict the potential for gambling and lotteries ads to appeal to, and adversely impact, under-18s and vulnerable adults.

The background

The consultation was introduced in response to findings from research published in March 2020 commissioned by GambleAware, which looks at the effect of gambling marketing and advertising on children, young people and vulnerable adults. The research suggests that the use of lotteries and gambling advertisements which currently comply with the CAP Code could potentially adversely impact under-18s, more so than previously understood. The report found that 42% of people aged between 11 and 24 were “current gamblers”, meaning that they had participated in gambling within the last month.

At present, gambling ads are prohibited from appealing “particularly” to under-18s. In practice, this means they are banned from appealing more to under-18s than to adults and, as such, child-oriented content (such as animated characters) is already banned. The proposals would strengthen the rules to prohibit creative content of gambling and lotteries ads from appealing “strongly” to under-18s. A “strong” appeal test identifies advertising content that has a strong level of appeal to under-18s regardless of how it is viewed by adults. Adopting the “strong” appeal test would decrease the potential for gambling ads to attract the attention of under-18s in an audience. CAP further proposes to update existing guidance to include prohibiting:

  • presenting complex bets in a way that emphasises the skill or intelligence involved to suggest, inappropriately, a level of control over the bet which is unlikely to apply in practice;
  • presenting gambling as a way to be part of a community based on skill;
  • implying that money-back offers create security;
  • humour or light-heartedness which is used specifically to play down the risks of gambling; and
  • unrealistic portrayals of winners (for example, winning first time or easily).

Currently, gambling and betting ads are banned from any media where more than 25% of the audience is under 18. CAP however still deem this fit for purpose. CAP also state that there should not be an outright ban on gambling advertising, nor should a restriction be placed on the range of media where gambling advertisements are shown.

The consultation closes on 22 January 2021.

Why is this important?

Whilst the broader shift to online has increased access to gambling and lotteries, recent research suggests that the overall trend in underage participation in any gambling activity has actually declined significantly since 2011 and adult problem gambling rates have remained stable. However, the recent consultation is perhaps better understood against the broader political pressure the gambling sector is being put under. For example, last summer, the gambling industry introduced the “whistle-to-whistle” blackout, a voluntary ban on betting adverts during sports programmes, under increased pressure to protect children from excessive exposure to gambling.

The proposals within the new consultation mean that gambling advertisers and the content they produce will be scrutinised to a stricter standard than at present. CAP have also recognised that this restriction could have “significant implications” on the use of prominent sports people, celebrities and social media influencers in future gambling ads. Given that at present the use of celebrities in gambling ads is rife, these proposals would have a huge impact on gambling ad content generally.

Why is this important?

Ads must ensure that they comply with the CAP Codes and do not state or imply that their food product could prevent, treat or cure human disease, including COVID-19. Health claims made in advertising must be authorised on the Register, they must have met the conditions of use for the authorised claims, and properly communicated the meaning of the authorised claim. 

Any practical tips?

Whatever your interest in the gambling industry (be it advertiser, media owner or platform), you should seriously consider feeding into the consultation – and quickly. Remember that the consultation period closes on 22 January 2021.

In CAP and BCAP’s words, the proposals are “proportionate to the likelihood of harm identified by the evidence and are unlikely to result in disproportionate economic impacts on advertisers or media owners”. Now is the time to let them know whether you agree or not.