Gambling operators face new UK advertising controls

13 February 2019

Betting and gaming operatorsin the UK face a number of new restrictions on advertising after the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) published a revised list of standards designed to protect children and young people.

The new standards prohibit online gambling ads targeting individuals who are likely to be under 18, based on data about their online interests and browsing behaviour.

The ASA and CAP also list types of content now deemed unacceptable in these ads, including animated characters, licensed characters from movies or TV and sportspeople and celebrities that are likely to be of particular appeal to children. References to youth culture are also prohibited.

Operators will also no longer be able to feature sportspeople, celebrities or other characters who are or appear to be under the age of 25 in their ads.

The standards add to existing guidance on the responsible targeting of adverts across all forms of media, including social networks and other online platforms, with operators required to take action to ensure their ads are not targeted at under-18s.

This includes using all available tools to prevent targeting their ads at under-18s on social media platforms. The standards give examples of ad targeting facilities provided directly by the platform, as well as tools that restrict under-18s’ access to marketers’ own social media content.

Operators should also ensure gambling ads do not appear on parts of a website that particular appeal to under-18s, while gambling-like games or games that feature elements of simulated gambling activity should not be used to promote real-money gambling.

The standards also require operators to take care when identifying influencers to promote products or brands and that under-18s are not likely to comprise more than 25% of the individual’s audience

In addition, operators must ensure that any affiliates or other third parties acting on their behalf are running advertising in compliance with the new rules.

“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," CAP director Shahriar Coupal explained.

“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.”

The new advertising rules will come into effect in the UK from April 1 this year.

The move come after the ASA recently issued a warning to Gibraltar-based operator Tombola after it used the official mobile app for television programme ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ to promote its gambling products.

In its ruling, the ASA said under-18s would’ve downloaded the app and therefore had access to the gambling adverts and their subsequent website links. The ASA also said there were no mechanisms built into the app to target ads towards, or direct them away from certain groups of users, including under-18s.

The ASA ruled said the ads must not appear again in their current form, without specific targeting, while the regulator also told Tombola to ensure its ads are appropriately targeted in future.