The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and its sister broadcasting committee (BCAP) have launched a public consultation on proposed new rules for regulating gambling advertisements, such as those for casinos and betting, which are due to come into force in September 2007.
Topic: Proposed relaxation of gambling advertising regulation
Who: CAP and BCAP
When: July 2006
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and its sister body BCAP have issued a consultation document on the proposed future regulation of gambling advertising in the UK under the new framework established by the Gambling Act 2005.
The consultation document (available from CAP's website at www.cap.org.uk) sets out proposed new rules dealing separately with non-broadcast, television and radio advertising of gambling products to apply when the Gambling Act is finally brought into force (anticipated to be September 2007), and invites responses on these from interested parties by Friday 15th September 2006.
So what are the main planned changes?
1. Legal restrictions
It is worth remembering that the current legal rules which restrict gambling advertising, such as the restriction against mentioning winnings or stakes in adverts for online gaming sites and the prohibition on advertising offshore bookmakers, will be swept away by the new Gambling Act.
In its place the Act will permit all gambling advertising (subject to compliance with the relevant codes), except adverts for foreign gambling operations which are not regulated under the laws of an EEA state (which comprises the European Union plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland), Gibraltar or any "white listed" country (as approved by the DCMS from time to time).
2. Television and radio ban
BCAP proposes that the current ban on any betting and gaming adverts being broadcast on television or radio (except for football pools and bingo) contained in the respective advertising codes should also be swept away, so that any gambling product may be advertised on television or radio.
This will be a major deregulation of gambling advertising, allowing casinos, betting shops and online gaming sites (subject to the legal restriction mentioned above) to advertise on television and radio for the first time.
3. Protection of children and vulnerable people
The proposed new rules are designed to reflect the core licensing objective of the Gambling Act to protect children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
The restrictions proposed by CAP and BCAP to fulfil this objective broadly follow similar restrictions introduced last year in respect of alcohol advertising, so for example adverts should not link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness and should not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour which is socially irresponsible.
In this context it is worth noting that the proposed new BCAP rules for television advertising include specific rules that apply to all advertisements as well as rules that only apply to adverts for gambling products. In comparison the proposed new CAP Code rules for non-broadcast advertising are only applicable to adverts for gambling products.
4. Age restrictions
CAP and BCAP propose that the various age restrictions related to gambling advertising across non-broadcast, television and radio should be harmonised as follows:
– Gambling adverts should not be of particular appeal to under 18 year olds, particularly by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.
– Scheduling restrictions should be more flexible, so that no gambling adverts should be scheduled or placed in or around media directed at under 18s, except adverts for lotteries, football pools, family entertainment centres and fairs where the limit will be under 16s.
– Except for adverts for lotteries for children and young person's good causes, family entertainment centres and fairs, no one under 18 may appear in a gambling advert, and no one under 25 may play a significant role or be featured gambling.
This proposed harmonisation would result in certain existing rules becoming more restrictive, and certain rules becoming more relaxed.
Of particular note is the fact that CAP seems to intend to quietly remove the current 25% rule for non-broadcast ads – whereby no medium should be used to advertise betting and gaming if more than 25% of its audience is under 18 years of age. It is unclear at present how the authorities intend to interpret the "media directed at under 18s/16s" rule without reference to a specific audience percentage, but on the face of it this looks like a significant relaxation of the rules.
5. Compulsory statements
The Gambling Commission requested that CAP and BCAP consider whether or not gambling adverts should be required to include a warning or educational message, such as "Please pay responsibly" or "Know your limit, play within it". However CAP/BCAP have concluded that such messages are at present unnecessary, although this decision will be kept under review.
In addition the consultation document reveals that the Gambling Commission considers that it is important to require gambling adverts to include a statement revealing who or where the gambling product is regulated, such as "Licensed by the Gambling Commission" or "Licensed in the Isle of Man".
CAP/BCAP have, however, concluded that such a message would not be proportionate, bearing in mind the existing legal restriction on adverts for offshore gambling operations based outside the EEA, Gibraltar or any "white listed" country (referred to above).
The proposed rules will ultimately form part of the existing CAP Code, BCAP Radio Advertising Standards Code, BCAP TV Advertising Standards Code and BCAP Rules of the Scheduling of TV Advertisements. As such enforcement will primarily be the responsibility of the ASA, with Ofcom retaining backstop powers against its television and radio licensees in respect of broadcast advertising.
However the Gambling Commission also intends to make compliance with the CAP and BCAP codes a condition of its gambling operator licences, and so will retain backstop powers against its (UK) licensees in the event of a serious or recurring breach of the codes.
Why this matters:
The Gambling Act promises the biggest shake-up in the regulation of gambling for the last forty years, and these proposed new rules will form part of the new regulatory landscape that is intended to last for the next forty years and beyond.
With gambling becoming such a massive growth business, the deregulation of the current restrictions (particularly in respect of television advertising) promises to lead to a huge growth in the gambling advertising spend in the UK. All interested parties and industry stakeholders would therefore be well advised to study the proposed new rules carefully and submit their comments by the 15th September closing date.