Ban celebrities and influencers from gambling ads, new rules propose

Public consultation also suggests rules should include a 'strong appeal test' to protect young people from gambling harms.

'Lads, lads, lads': Ladbrokes ads has featured celebrities Brian Blessed (pictured) James Buckley and Kris Akabusi
'Lads, lads, lads': Ladbrokes ads has featured celebrities Brian Blessed (pictured) James Buckley and Kris Akabusi

Celebrities, sportspeople and social-media influencers could be banned from appearing in gambling ads as part of new rules designed to limit appeal to young people. 

The Committees of Advertising Practice, the body behind the Advertising Standards Authority watchdog’s decision-making, has launched a public consultation today on new rules and guidance to protect under-18s from potential gambling-related harms. 

The suggested changes in the consultation would mean the ASA would hold brands to account with a “strong appeal test”, which identifies content that resonates with under-18s, regardless of how the ads are viewed by adults. 

Ads would be banned from including a person or character who is likely to be followed by children and young teenagers. 

“The new restriction would have significant implications for gambling advertisers looking to promote their brands using prominent sports people and celebrities, and also individuals like social-media influencers,” the CAP said.

Child-oriented content, such as animated characters and superheroes, are already banned, but the new rules would also cover characters’ behaviour, language and fashion. 

The CAP is also considering strengthening the rules on how gambling is portrayed as a skill in advertising, because it “inappropriately” suggests that gamblers have a level of control over a bet that is unlikely to apply in practice.

It could also ban any marketing communications that imply bookmakers and casinos’ money-back offers are giving consumers a greater chance of security, as well as unrealistic portrayals of winners (for example, people winning easily or winning with their first bet).

Gambling ads have been allowed on UK television since 2007 when the Gambling Act came into force and form a highly lucrative sector for the ad industry. Gambling brands are among the largest ad accounts in terms of billings: they include Ladbrokes Coral (£92m), which appointed Bartle Bogle Hegarty last year, and Camelot (The National Lottery, £40m), which awarded its business to Adam & Eve/DDB in 2018. 

The CAP said the consultation comes in response to recent research commissioned by charity GambleAware, the findings of which suggest that the creative content of gambling and lotteries advertising has more potential than previously understood to have an adverse impact on under-18s and vulnerable adults.

Gambling marketing spend online has increased exponentially in recent years, which has created specific gambling risks for young people, the CAP added, while adult problem gambling rates have remained stable.

Director of the CAP Shahriar Coupal said: “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. 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.”

 

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