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ASA gambling update, with CAP gambling advertising policy specialist Andy Taylor

Last week, we joined the ASA Gambling Update webinar, hosted by CAP gambling advertising policy expert Andy Taylor. The focus of the meeting was to recap on the current state of play across gambling regulations and to discuss the recently announced CAP consultation into the targeting of gambling advertising particularly towards under 18s and other vulnerable groups.

This consultation was in response to a piece of research carried out by GambleAware which was released in March this year. GambleAware is a wholly independent body, funded by an industry levy via the Gambling Commission. Their latest research piece indicated a clear association between ad exposure and the susceptibility to gamble, which called for tighter controls to protect under 18’s and vulnerable groups, questioning whether the current UK advertising code was sufficient enough to protect these groups.

The recap focussed on the major restrictions active today and highlighted how gambling advertising is highly visible across all media channels, and under further media, public and parliamentary scrutiny.

Some of the key highlighted constraints include:

  • Avoiding under 18 audiences.
  • Avoiding vulnerable parties (individuals with gambling issues).
  • No irresponsible appeal or exploitation of personal circumstance.

Andy Taylor advised that CAP has launched a consultation proposal in response which is due for completion in late January. During the webinar, he indicated that CAP will likely be pushing back on the need to reduce exposure overall but that there may be some adjustments regarding creative restrictions following the consultation.

These restrictions were likely to be as follows:

  • Stricter rules around appeal to under 18’s via included content, e.g. celebrities, sportspeople, influencers, cartoon and TV characters – with the example of Jose Mourinho in the current Paddy Power Games ads cited as an example that may be problematic in the future.
  • Advertising playing down risk or appearing to emphasise skill – it is expected that they will recommend tightening up around this area too.

He was hesitant to say whether there would be black and white regulations and that it would most likely be judged on a case by case basis.

All Response Media viewpoint

For now, there is nothing ground-breaking to report as the consultation is yet to be completed, however, the update hinted that there is likely to be further restrictions going forward. The government will shortly be reviewing the 2005 Gambling Act and the industry must continue to work with the government through bodies such as the BGC to limit any significant impact such as blanket bans or channel bans such as those that have recently been imposed on brands deemed as HFSS (High Fat, Salt, and Sugar).

It certainly appears to be sportsbook advertising which has attracted the most attention on the industry in recent years and we expect that it will be more than just creative consideration which will have new rules and guidance to adapt to. Advertising around live sport on radio and TV and shirt sponsorships deals are attracting a lot of criticism for appearance in sports such as football which are ever-evolving into family offerings and have a huge young people and children following.

We envisage that eventually, there will be a blanket pre-9pm ban on advertising for all gambling which would put huge pressure on post-9pm TV inventory, particularly with the news of a similar ban for HFSS.

This will force businesses to look for other avenues for acquisition as with (slowly) declining TV audiences, it will put higher cost premiums on a limited amount of TV and media inventory. The government is demonstrating that they are closely looking at online advertising too, so it certainly makes for challenging times ahead for many sectors and businesses.

We will update accordingly when the CAP consultation is available in the new year.

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