The Gambling Act 2005, due in force 1 September 2007, radically liberalises British gambling advertising laws. The CAP and BCAP Codes were changed as a result. But “hold your horses” said the new PM and now there’s a second code. James Pond does a double take.
Topic: Betting and gaming
Who: Gambling industry
When: August 2007
Law stated at: September 2007
Barely a few weeks before the new Gambling Act 2005 regime was brought into force across Britain, and almost five months after CAP and BCAP had publicised the new CAP, TV and Radio code provisions governing gambling ads following a lengthy consultation, a separate and hitherto unexpected new gambling industry code for socially responsible advertising was announced. This late addition to the regulatory burden appears to be the result of political pressure which has been building for a while.
Earlier this year the Gambling Commission had signalled its unhappiness with the conclusion of the joint CAP/BCAP consultation on the new gambling advertising rules in respect of obligatory warnings and educational messaging. CAP/BCAP had originally concluded that the weight of evidence could not justify such a requirement, but the Gambling Commission stepped in with a further consultation of its own on this subject and encouraged the set-up of a voluntary website signposting scheme by the gambling industry along similar lines to that already run by the drinks industry (www.drinkaware.co.uk).
In addition, following the change of Prime Minister and subsequent reshuffle, the new minister in charge at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, James Purnell, indicated that the government were reviewing the entire proposed Gambling Act regime – notwithstanding the minor detail that the new regime was a mere few weeks away from being brought into force following years of preparation. In particular the proposal to permit gambling advertising on television was suddenly now viewed as a highly dangerous development, which could have an adverse effect on children and vulnerable people as well as a negative impact on the "Brown bounce".
The new code
As a result, and with the knowledge that under the Gambling Act the government retained reserve powers to introduce additional gambling advertising regulations, the industry agreed to launch a new code for socially responsible advertising. The highlights are as follows:
- The requirement for every gambling advert to include a reference to www.gambleaware.co.uk, the new educational website established by the Responsibility in Gambling Trust (RIGT).
- The introduction of a 9pm watershed, before which gambling advertising cannot be broadcast on television (except for bingo and the National Lottery, and for betting advertising around televised sporting events).
- Logos and other references to gambling products or companies should not appear on children's replica shirts and other merchandise. For example if a gambling company sponsor a football club, the children's replica shirts (defined as those sizes which do not attract VAT) must not feature the gambling company logo/name.
Full details of the code can be found here.
It should be borne in mind that this new industry code does not replace the existing CAP and BCAP codes, but merely supplements them. As for enforcement, although the industry code itself states that compliance is not mandatory it is clear that the government expects to see widespread compliance, otherwise there is the tangible threat that it will use its reserve powers to make these restrictions legally enforceable.
Interestingly para 37 of the code refers to the possibility that the Gambling Commission could potentially enforce the code against all GB licensed operators, via a provision in its Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP). However this approach would seem illogical since it would effectively mean that GB licensed operators would be under a greater regulatory burden than operators licensed overseas, and in any case the obligation in the LCCP on GB licensees to comply with the "advertising codes of practice" was originally intended to refer to the CAP and BCAP codes, rather than any voluntary industry rules. It remains to be seen whether or not the Gambling Commission attempts to follow this argument should any operator decide to ignore the industry code.
Why this matters:
After so much time was spent on various consultations and code re-writing in the months leading up to 1st September, it is disappointing that the launch of the new Gambling Act regime was affected by last minute political positioning. At one stage it appeared as though the government was seriously considering blocking any television advertising of gaming and betting, which would have resulted in wasted media and production costs for those operators who had prepared for the new regime in good faith.
The new industry code represents yet another layer of regulation which anyone involved in gambling advertising needs to be aware of, on top of the legal restrictions contained in the Gambling Act and the official advertising codes published by CAP and BCAP.