With new gambling ad rules due to come into force in September 2007, the Gambling Commission is consulting on ad ‘health warnings,’ ‘Licensed by the Gambling Commission’ captions and other issues.


Topic: Betting and gaming
Who: Gambling Commission
Where: UK
When: January 2007

What happened:

Yet another consultation has opened on the long-awaited new rules governing gambling in the UK, due to come into force in September 2007. With Manchester having recently won the battle of the super-casino, the excitement is building with time rapidly counting down to "G-day".

Readers with long memories may recall that the new rules on what will and won't be permitted in gambling advertising under the new regime will be primarily enforced by the ASA, and that CAP/BCAP have already run a joint consultation on their proposed new advertising rules which closed back in September 2006.

At the time CAP/BCAP considered whether or not the new rules should require gambling advertising to carry educational messages or warnings, but concluded that the weight of evidence could not justify such a requirement.

However the regulator in overall charge of gambling policy, the Gambling Commission, has decided to look at this question again and to run a further consultation on whether requiring messages in advertising would be useful in carrying out its statutory duty of "protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling".

What measures are they considering?

The Gambling Commission are considering including three types of messages:-

  • warning messages, setting out the potentially negative consequences of excessive gambling;
  • educational messages, aiming to inform the public how gambling can be enjoyed in a socially responsible way; and
  • signposting, providing details of available help (such as a GamCare helpline telephone number)

Examples of messages under consideration include "Know your limit and play within it", "Please play responsibly" and "Bet with you head, but not above it".

Separately the regulator is considering whether to require gambling operators to display their licensed status in advertising. This is of specific interest to remote gambling advertisements, where the operator could be required to display a "licensed in Gibraltar" type notice in all of their advertising.

As we reported last month (http://www.marketinglaw.co.uk/open.asp?A=1515) this consultation is also looking at the separate issue of gambling brands appearing on replica sports kit.

Why this matters:

To date the CAP/BCAP codes have not required messages of any type to be included in any advertising. When messages are required, it is because other regulators (e.g. the Financial Services Authority) require them, or because a voluntary agreement has been reached (e.g. The Portman Group's drinkaware.co.uk messaging). However it is clear that the powers-that-be regard gambling advertising as a particularly special case, and there is a clear risk that obligatory warnings may be required at some point in the future.

There is also an interesting sub-plot to this issue, since the Gambling Commission appears to be cutting across the authority of CAP/BCAP (to whom it originally subcontracted responsibility for the regulation of gambling advertising). Ominously for CAP/BCAP, the consultation paper notes that although CAP/BCAP are responsible for setting the rules for gambling advertising, the Secretary of State retains backstop statutory powers to impose additional regulations on both broadcast and non-broadcast advertising.

Responses to the consultation should be sent by Tuesday 6 March 2007.

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