The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has launched a public consultation on strengthening the UK Advertising Codes related to gambling.
In particular, the CAP is looking at barring the use of celebrities or characters likely to be followed by, or ‘appeal strongly’ to, under-18s. This would have ‘significant implications’ for companies looking to use prominent sports figures or social media influencers to promote their brands, the committee states.
The CAP’s proposals are designed to better protect children and vulnerable people from potential gambling-related harm, and have been developed partly in response to research commissioned by GambleAware which found that even advertising that abides by the existing codes has ‘more potential than previously understood’ to have an adverse impact on young and vulnerable people.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Gambling Related Harm recently called for a ban on all gambling advertising, following a 12-month enquiry, while a report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee stated that oversight of the gambling industry by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Gambling Commission was ‘weak’ and ‘complacent’ (DDN, July/August, page 4).
Among the other proposals set out in the CAP consultation are a ‘strong’ test to identify content – including images and themes, as well as characters – that would appeal to under-18s. While child-orientated content like superheroes or cartoon characters is already banned, the new regulations would be widened to cover characters’ behaviour, language, clothing and appearance. Guidance would also be strengthened to prohibit the use of humour to play down gambling risks, ‘unrealistic’ portrayals of winners such as people winning first time, and the presentation of complex bets in a way that emphasises skill or intelligence to suggest ‘a level of control over the bet that is unlikely to apply in practice’.
‘The consultation proposes a strengthening of our rules and guidance which will help us in our ongoing work to prevent children, young and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling advertising,’ said CAP director Shahriar Coupal. ‘It responds to valuable research commissioned by GambleAware that has highlighted how gambling ads have more potential than previously understood to adversely impact these audiences – that’s something we take very seriously and that we are aiming to address.’