OnlineLegal & RegulatoryIndustryFeature

New CAP standards target irresponsible, online gambling ads

A drive to protect children from online gambling marketing is the focus of the Committees of Advertising Practice’s (CAP) new standards. 


CAP writes and maintains the UK’s Advertising Codes and has today published new standards to protect children and young people from irresponsible gambling ads, to be enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

In particular, the new standards prohibit online ads for gambling products being targeted at minors, list unacceptable content including animated characters, celebrities or sportspeople, and add to existing guidance on the targeting of ads.

Andrew Taylor, Regulatory Policy Executive at CAP, spoke exclusively to Gambling Insider about the new measures.

The first thing that stood out to us was the new standards' focus on online ads; what exactly is the reasoning behind this?

I think the reason we are focusing on online ads is self-evident: it is a new, rapidly developing area. Online is part of the wider ASA’s focus in terms of its new strategy in this area; we want to get to grips with the new challenges and obviously in areas like gambling, which have a degree of sensitivity to them as a product category, we need to ensure we are really doing it at the highest level in terms of the regulation. Our aim is to ensure ads are responsible and in compliance with the code.   

How powerful are influencers in the gambling industry, especially when it comes to children?

Influencers are new and it’s obviously a big buzz word in terms of a new marketing avenue; we would await research to give us an idea from an academic perspective about trying to quantify the influence. It is very clear lots of social media personalities, both famous and not-so-famous, are making themselves available to do this kind of influencer advertising. As far as we’re concerned, it should comply as any other form of advertising. It should be identifiable as an ad and then obviously we have the guidelines in our standards.

Can you give me some examples of current influencers and the effect they can have on children in gambling?

We have various rulings in other areas around television stars, in non-gambling areas I should say, promoting products and that’s an example of the model of the type of marketing we’ve seen through influencers.

We haven’t yet seen any ASA ruling and judgements specifically on influencers. The guidance’s role is to remind the industry they are selling a particular product, which is sensitive, and they need to take due measures to ensure they are being responsible. For example, if they incentivise someone on Twitter to re-tweet an offer, they need to do that responsibly.   

When awaiting research to comment in depth on the effect of influencers on children, how do you go about finding that information?

We’re an evidence-based regulator so we are open to any form of evidence. That could be a survey asking children about the way in which they’ve interacted with influencers in relation to gambling. Alternatively, we can conduct more in-depth, more controlled studies which we have seen around television advertising, where there is an interest from a regulatory perspective.  

With the influencer space, because it has popped up so quickly, we are waiting for things to catch up. We’re awaiting that information. I would say we are aware Gamble Aware has some research going on at the moment, that’s going to look quite strongly at the questions around online and influencers might well form part of that.

The whistle-to-whistle ban on pre-watershed advertising during sporting events was praised. But, given all the focus is moving online, how much do you think it will help?

The whistle-to-whistle ban is an initiative of the industry; it goes beyond where our rules are and it’s entirely reasonable for an industry grouping to come together out of self-interest to impose higher standards than the mandatory standards in our code.

It’s not for us to talk about the benefits of that. As far as we’re concerned, gambling advertising has a place, it’s specifically allowed under law provided it’s responsible. Our job is to ensure the responsibility side of things and that’s what we’ve done in our new guidance. We want to make it more clear how operators can make sure under-18s are protected.

What do you think of operators self-regulating?

It’s for operators to make those decisions and, if they wish to go above and beyond what the code says, that’s a matter for them. 

We will follow the evidence and set rules that restrict ads and restricts the content of those ads: you can see that in the guidance. That’s the standard we are setting but it is entirely reasonable for the industry to benefit by going further than that.  

Your report says the responsibility lies with operators in the operator-affiliate relationship. Why does it need to work this way?

The code applies against the advertiser, it’s the general principle, and it’s not just in gambling but in any company using an affiliate relationship. They are obviously a part of these new, online marketing techniques and as far as we’re concerned if you’re a marketer, you control those who advertise your products, services and brand and you are responsible for those.

There are obviously lots of people involved in this chain and influencers are no different from the role of an ad agency when you hire an agency to produce an ad for you. Ultimately, you are responsible for that ad.

What do you think of plans made by regulators looking to implement a blanket ban?

We acknowledge there are wider societal concerns around gambling advertising because it is the more visible part of the market. People who don’t like gambling do not engage with it; however, the advertising is the thing they see. I would suppose a lot of people have a problem with it on that basis, and it’s entirely reasonable for them to do so.

Our view is that when a product, and this is a very general point about all products, may legally be sold it can be legally advertised, as long as it’s done responsibly. That is the entire purpose of our regulations and codes, and that is what we are doing with our standards, making it clear what responsible gambling advertising means.

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