Insights Tough new rules on gambling advertisements

Following the Advertising Standards Agency (the “ASA”) consultation in October 2020 on new and strengthened rules and guidance aimed at protecting under-18s and vulnerable people in the UK from potential gambling advertising related harm, the Committee for Advertising Practice (“CAP”) announced today the introduction of tough new rules, which will come into effect on 1 October 2022, for gambling advertisements.

Under current rules, gambling ads must not be of “particular appeal” to children. Under the new rules, the test will be strengthened so that gambling advertisings must not be “be likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.” The practical consequence of this is that gambling ads will be severely restricted from using topflight footballers and footballers with a considerable following among under-18 on social media as well as sportspeople well-known to under-18s and celebrities popular amongst under-18s (such as stars from reality tv shows such as Love Island).

At the time the ASA issued its consultation in October 2020, we commented on the impact the new rules would have on endorsement deals (please see our full commentary, here). The reality now is that the days of celebrity endorsement deals for gambling ads are seemingly coming to an end – Shariar Coupal, Director of CAP, issued the following statement confirming the position:

The days of gambling ads featuring sports stars, video game imagery and other content of strong appeal to under-18s are numbered. By ending these practices, our new rules invite a new era for gambling ads, more particular to the adult audience they can target and more befitting of the age-restricted product they’re promoting.”

The October 2022 launch date for the new rules falls a month before the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar which will of course have a dramatic impact on the usual marketing push and type of gambling ads operators would spend on in the run up to the event.

What is clear is that we are entering into a new era of gambling ads where marketers must be able to satisfy themselves to a “high degree of confidence” that their ad is unlikely to appeal strongly to under-18s before the ad is published.

The new guidance sets out a helpful checklist for gambling advertisers and categorises some of the high-risk content/approaches. From this, it is particularly worth noting that:

  • in the event that the ASA investigates a potential breach of the strong appeal requirement, it will expect to see a detailed assessment as to why the marketer considered the ad would not appeal strongly to under-18s;
  • content related to eSports popular with under-18s or themes/features like loot boxes or skins is considered ‘high risk’ and should be avoided;
  • football and eSports popular with the under-18s are called out as activities of inherently strong appeal and so betting ads for the same will fall under the prohibition unless appropriate steps have been taken to limit the potential for the ad to appeal strongly to under-18s – the ASA suggests ways in which this might be achieved; for example, audio references to the activity as opposed to imagery or team names and/or logos as opposed to the use of people or characters (the scope of use of such is severely reduced and should be considered very carefully alongside the ASA’s more detailed guidance on the use of persons and characters); and
  • there is still a targeting exemption, though as we have come to accept, this requires that those aged under 18 years are excluded from the audience of an ad and this will require robust age verification of the potential recipients.

The full guidance document can be accessed here.