Topic: Betting and gaming
Who: Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)
When: December 2012
Law stated as at: 10 January 2012
The DCMS and CAP are seeking the views of stakeholders on changes to gambling regulation.
The DCMS is inviting submissions on the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill 2011. This proposes to extend significantly the remit of UK gambling laws in the online space.
Separately, CAP, the sister body to the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) which writes the advertising Codes administered by the ASA, is consulting on a relaxation of rule 16.3.14 of the CAP Code. This currently requires that no one who is or seems to be under 25 should play a “significant role” in gambling ads.
Most remote gambling services ads to be caught
Under the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill it is proposed that all overseas gambling operators, whether or not they are located and already regulated in Gibraltar, other EEA states or in so-called “white-listed” jurisdictions, will need a licence from Britain’s Gambling Commission (“GC”) in order to advertise “remote” gambling services for consumption by British residents. (Note here that the references are to Britain not the UK, as the Gabling Act 2005 regime does not extend to Northern Ireland, where different laws apply.)
Participation in “remote” gambling services is participation by, for example, the internet, the telephone or TV.
Currently overseas-based providers of remote gambling services do not need a licence from the GC to advertise these services to British residents if:
(1) the gambling service is already regulated by a country in the EEA (the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) which is regarded as including Gibraltar for these purposes; or
(2) the gambling takes place and is regulated in a “white listed” jurisdiction (currently the Isle of Man, the Island of Alderney, Tasmania and Antigua and Barbuda).
Under the proposed regime, the “white list” will be abolished, as will the EEA saving. As a result, all advertisers of remote gambling services to residents of Great Britain will need a GC licence and pay betting duty, even if the service in question is already regulated by another EEA or white listed jurisdiction.
Change also to when licensing is needed for operating remote gambling services
As regards actually operating remote gambling services (in contrast to advertising them) there will also be change if the Bill is signed off in its current form.
Currently no GC licence is needed unless any part of the equipment used in providing the service is located in Great Britain. Under the Bill, regardless of where the “equipment” is located, a GC licence will be needed if the remote gambling facilities “are or will be capable of being used” in Great Britain.
Concerns have been expressed that “capable of being used” is too vague. For instance if a reasonably savvy British web user could get round blocking software designed to prevent access by GB residents by using a proxy server, would the services in question be “capable” of being used” in Great Britain?
Young sports stars to appear in online gambling ads?
In addition to the changes to gambling law, it is proposed that there will be amendments to the CAP Code of Non-Broadcast advertising regulating gambling advertising.
Currently, gambling advertisements must not include children or young people and must not feature images of people under 25 gambling or playing a significant role (rule 16.3.14).
The effect of this rule, particularly following the extension of the CAP Code to cover advertising on advertisers’ own websites, has been to prevent the use on gambling service websites of pictures of sports stars to which offered bets relate if they are or appear to be under 25.
CAP now proposes to revise the rule with the qualification that “individuals who are, or seem to be under 25 years old may be featured playing a significant role”, but only where: (i) the advertising appears in the same place “where a bet can be placed directly through a transactional facility, for instance, a gambling operator’s own website”; and (ii) the individual is “used to illustrate specific betting selections where that individual is the subject of the bet offered”.
Why this matters:
The proposal to extend the scope of UK gambling licensing requirements to cover all advertising by overseas operators of remote gambling services to British residents will affect not only the operators affected but also publishers which display such operators’ advertising (e.g. by way of advertising space on their own websites). It will be necessary to check that operators have a valid UK licence in place in order to offer or advertise such gambling services to British consumers.
It remains to be seen, however, how Brussels will react to this proposal and its apparent snub to the “single market” by eschewing regulation by other EU states. Industry stakeholders including the many based in Gibraltar, will also no doubt be voicing their opinions.
The amendment to the CAP Code rule on advertising containing images of under 25s will be a welcome change for gambling operators offering sports betting. It will enable such operators to use images of sportsmen and women who are the subject of the bet offered in order to advertise the bet, whether or not they are over 25. This will bring to an end the disparity of being able to use images of sportsmen to advertise certain bets but not to advertise others, simply on the basis of the age of the sports stars involved.