CAP bulks up guidance on gambling ads

Greater care needed to ensure young people aren't targeted by ads, CAP says.

Fairytale characters: subject of previous warning by the ASA
Fairytale characters: subject of previous warning by the ASA

The Committees of Advertising Practice have published an update to the code on gambling advertising and marketing that will come into force on 1 April.

CAP stated that "while the advertising rules don’t need to change, we have introduced new standards to strengthen how they apply in practice".

The changes were made after a review of rulings since 2014 by the Advertising Standards Authority, which polices the advertising codes. CAP director Shahriar Coupal suggested that some advertisers may have been "playing at the margins of regulatory compliance".

The ASA wrote to more than 450 gambling operators in October 2017 with a warning to stop using ads that are likely to appeal to under-18s, including naming games after fairytale characters.

The new standards:

  • prohibit online ads for gambling products being targeted at groups of individuals who are likely to be under 18 based on data about their online interests and browsing behaviour
  • extensively list unacceptable types of content, including certain types of animated characters, licensed characters from movies or TV, sportspeople and celebrities who are likely to be of particular appeal to children, and references to youth culture
  • prohibit the use in gambling ads of sportspeople, celebrities or other characters who are or appear to be under 25
  • add to existing guidance on the responsible targeting of ads covering all media (including social networks and other online platforms)

In particular, the standards provide examples of scenarios to help advertisers understand what they need to do to target ads away from under-18s. For example:

  • Social media – gambling operators must use all the tools available to them on a social network platform to prevent targeting their ads at under-18s
  • Parts of websites for under-18s – gambling operators should take particular care to avoid placing their ads on parts of websites of particular appeal to under-18s
  • Social and online gaming – gambling-like games or games that feature elements of simulated gambling activity are often popular with children and young people
  • Influencers – gambling operators should take particular care when identifying influencers to promote their products or brands
  • Affiliates – responsibility lies with gambling operators to ensure that affiliates or other third parties acting on their behalf to publish or disseminate ads that comply with the advertising rules

Coupal said: "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. 

"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."

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