Advertisers have found it a challenge to adjust to the new UK gambling advertising regime since the coming into force of the Gambling Act 2005. The rules have been liberalised but not the regulators’ attitude to enforcement. Mark Smith reports on new official guidance.
Topic: Betting and gaming
Who: CAP and BCAP
When: 26 September 2008
Law stated as at: 21 October 2008
On 26 September 2008, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) issued a new guidance document on gambling advertisements, focusing on three distinct areas:
- People using gambling as an escape from personal, professional or educational problems;
- Solitary gambling; and
- Cultural beliefs or traditions about gambling and luck.
It has been published in response to requests for guidance on the various rules that cover these subjects in the BCAP TV Advertising Code, BCAP Radio Advertising Code and CAP Code. The guidance covers TV, radio and non-broadcast advertising.
Escape From Problems
57.4(c) of the CAP Code states:
Marketing and communications should not suggest that gambling can provide an escape from personal, professional or educational problems such as loneliness or depression.
Equivalent provisions exist in the BCAP Television Advertising Standards Code and BCAP Radio Advertising Standards Code at Rule 11.10.1(b) and Section 3 Rule 21.2(c) respectively.
The new guidance explains that advertisements should not suggest that gambling can alleviate mental distress and should avoid portraying extreme contrasts in emotion before and after gambling. However, advertisements may feature someone in a state of excitement following a win or disappointed after a loss and can suggest that, enjoyed responsibly as a leisure activity, gambling can help to relieve boredom.
Partouche banner ad issues
An example of the sort of advertisement that can fall foul of 57.4(c) was provided by the recent ASA case (Partouche Betting Ltd t/a partouche-betting.com, 8 October 2008). It concerned an Internet banner advertisement for the online gambling website Partouche Betting, which showed a flag stating "BET TO FORGET". The text "CLICK OR REGRET" then appeared.
The ASA held that the claim "BET TO FORGET" was likely to be interpreted, particularly by vulnerable people, as implying that gambling could provide an escape from personal problems and could therefore exploit them. It concluded that the ad was irresponsible and breached 57.4(c), as well as various other provisions of the CAP Code.
57.4(k) of the CAP Code states:
Marketing communications should not suggest that solitary gambling is preferable to social gambling.
Equivalent provisions exist in the BCAP Television Advertising Standards Code and BCAP Radio Advertising Standards Code at Rule 11.10.1(j) and Section 3 Rule 21.2(k) respectively.
It is clarified in the new guidance that these rules are not intended to prevent the depiction of solitary gambling online, but to address concerns about people gambling alone. An advertisement which contrasts solitary gambling favourably with social gambling will probably fall foul of this rule.
Also, a gambling advertisement involving an adult losing track of time, shunning the company of others, retreating into private fantasy or engaging in secretive gambling is likely to breach the general principle that advertisements should not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.
Cultural Beliefs or Traditions
57.4(q) of the CAP Code states:
Marketing communications should not exploit cultural beliefs or traditions about gambling or luck.
Equivalent provisions exist in the BCAP Television Advertising Standards Code and BCAP Radio Advertising Standards Code at Rule 11.10.2(f) and Section 3 Rule 21.2(l) respectively.
The new guidance advises that advertisements should avoid the use of cultural systems and symbols such as horoscopes if they relate to an existing, strongly and communally held belief. However, the rules are not intended to prevent references to symbols or obsolete superstitions unlikely to be taken seriously, such as a clover leaf.
Why this matters:
Many gambling advertisers are still adjusting to the new, liberalised rules on gambling advertising, which were introduced on 1 September 2007. The new guidance is a welcome aid to interpreting some of these rules, and should help to ensure that gambling advertisers do not breach the relevant Code.