The Committee of Advertising Practice and its broadcast ads counterpart the BCAP have published the new rules for gambling advertising to be effective 1/9/07. The regime will be liberalised but it won’t be a free for all, reports Stephen Groom.
Topic: Betting and gaming
Who: The Committee of Advertising Practice ("CAP") and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice ("BCAP")
When: March 2007
CAP, the body that writes the CAP Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing ("Code") which is administered by the Advertising Standards Authority, published amendments to the Code which will change the rules governing non broadcast gambling advertising in the UK with effect from 1 September 2007. This is when the Gambling Act 2005 ("the Act") comes into force.
At the same time, revisions were published to the "Gambling" provisions of BCAP's Television and Radio Advertising Standards Codes. These will also come into effect on 1 September 2007.
The new rules, described by CAP/BCAP as "rigorous and robust," follow a consultation on earlier proposals but they may not be the last word. As reported previously on marketinglaw.co.uk, Ofcom is still consulting on related questions such as whether all gambling advertising should contain prescribed "wealth warnings". For the moment, however, the Code revisions contain no such requirements and it remains to be seen whether this will change come 1 September 2007.
Principal code changes
First up, an amended clause 33.1 of the Code focusing on promotions with prizes reflects the Act's new regime by stating that marketers "should take legal advice before embarking on promotions with prizes, including competitions, prize draws and instant win offers, to ensure that the mechanisms involved do not render these lotteries, as defined by [the Act]."
But this is not a full reflection of the scheme of the Act. Competitions which do not take full account of .the new rules, for example, may avoid being "lotteries" but may still be illegal. This could occur for example if the mechanic of the competition constitutes either "gaming" or "betting" without the required licences being in place.
Not a spectacular start.
15 new rules
Then the new rule 57.1 of the Code, to replace clause 54, sets out 20 rules for gambling ads in place of the old 5.
The old rules about not exploiting the young, not targeting under 18s (or still oddly under 16s for such as lotteries and football pools), being socially responsible and not depicting under 25s remain.
Joining them are new rules that for example require gambling advertisers not to:
- Suggest that gambling can provide an escape from personal, professional or educational problems such as loneliness or depression;
- Suggest that gambling can be a solution to financial concerns or an alternative to employment;
- Suggest that gambling can enhance personal qualities;
- Portray gambling in a context of toughness or link it to resilience or recklessness;
- Exploit cultural beliefs or traditions about gambling or luck
- Link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness
- Portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm (since all gambling could arguably lead to "financial harm" this element could turn out to be problematic).
BCAP Code changes
The changes to the BCAP Code governing TV ads are along similar lines to those for the CAP Code except that they are split into two sections.
Rule 11.10.1 contains "Rules for all advertisements" and Rule 11.10.2 contains "Rules for gambling advertisements." The rules are largely the same as the 20 in the new CAP Code, but those in the first section will apply to all references to gambling in TV ads, even if the ad is actually advertising potato crisps, while the rules in 11.10.2 govern only advertising for gambling.
This dichotomy could potentially lead to some odd results. A gambling ad could not for example "condone or feature gambling in a working environment" whilst an ad for potato crisps could apparently include a scene depicting workplace poker without breaking the Code.
The BCAP rules on the scheduling of TV advertisements forbid gambling ads from airing in or next to children's programmes or programmes likely to be of particular appeal to children.
"Children" are for these purposes people of 15 and under. Once the relevant rules come into force, this puts programmes of particular appeal to this age group off limits for both gambling ads and ads for foods high in fat, salt or sugar under Ofcom's recently announced food ad rules.
Why this matters:
Non compliance with these new rules in a serious way or on a serial basis may lead to the advertiser being referred by the ASA to the Gambling Commission, who may then review the advertiser's position with a view to imposing fines or suspending or revoking the advertiser's gambling licence. They must be taken very seriously as well of course as the remainder of the CAP and BCAP Codes.