New guidance from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) will require gambling operators to take greater care over their placement of ads and over the kind of sportspeople and celebrities they use to promote their services.
The guidance also confirms the restrictions that gambling operators face on using licensed or animated characters in their adverts, and it further outlines new expectations on the use of social media tools and data to help with appropriate targeting of ads.
"This further guidance to operators in relation to advertising links in with the Gambling Commission’s new age verification measures set out earlier this month," said gambling law expert Christopher Rees-Gay of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. "It is clear that there is a real drive to protect children from harm, reinforcing again the Gambling Commission’s agenda in its push for greater consumer protection."
"The new advertising guidance links directly to the joint letter that the Advertising Standards Authority and the Gambling Commission sent out back in October 2017. Therefore, the new standards should not come as a surprise to operators," he said.
UK advertising rules require that gambling ads must not, among other things, "be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture".
The rules further state that gambling ads must not be "directed at those aged below 18 years … through the selection of media or context in which they appear".
According to the new guidance, gambling adverts that appear in media for children or young people, or in media where children or young people make up more than 25% of the audience, are liable to be found in breach of the advertising rules.
Gambling operators should be led by data on their placement of ads, the guidance said.
"It is the responsibility of marketers to satisfy the ASA by providing robust evidence that they have been diligent in forecasting the likely audience for a marketing communication and complied with CAP’s rules," the guidance said. "Marketers should take steps to ensure that they are confident of the likely audience composition of media around which their ads appear. Where this is not the case, they should exercise caution."
"Marketers must also ensure that they take all reasonable steps to use the data available to include or exclude individuals on the basis of their age or other relevant criteria. No under-18s or individuals who, due to their online behaviour, are likely to be under 18 should be targeted directly with gambling advertising," it said.
Operators will also be expected to show that they have made use of all the tools available to them on social networking platforms to "prevent under-18s from being targeted", CAP and BCAP said.
Gambling adverts should also not feature sports people or celebrities "who are or appear to be under 25", and caution should be exercised around featuring older people that are "likely to have a significant profile among under-18s", like sports or reality TV stars, the advertising rule-setters said.
The new guidance will take effect on 1 April 2019.
Shahriar Coupal, director of the Committees of Advertising Practice, said: "Playing at the margins of regulatory compliance is a gamble at the best of times, but for gambling advertisers it’s particularly ill-advised, especially when the welfare of children is at stake. Our new standards respond to the latest evidence and lessons from ASA rulings, and require that greater care is taken in the placement and content of gambling ads to ensure they are not inadvertently targeted at under 18s."