CAP Proposes Celebrity Gambling Ad Ban

A ban on celebrities and sports personalities appearing in British gambling ads could be on the horizon, if a set of new CAP proposals go ahead. In a bid to crack down on gambling ads that appeal to under-18s, the Committee of Advertising Practice has launched a public consultation on its suggested new rules.

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Under new CAP proposals, celebrities, social media personalities and sports personalities that appeal to children could be banned from appearing gambling adverts. ©Markus Spiske/Pexels

Protecting Children from Harm

CAP’s public consultation on proposals to strengthen rules and guidance on gambling advertising has now been launched. It has proposed changes to improve existing protections from gambling related harms and restrict gambling and lottery adverts from appealing to or impacting children and vulnerable people.

The CAP consultation follows new findings commissioned by charity GambleAware. The ‘Final Synthesis Report’ consists of research carried out by Ipsos Mori and the University of Stirling.

The first report of its kind, it has taken an in-depth look at the influence of gambling marketing and advertising in the UK. In doing so, it has found that the creative content of gambling adverts has a bigger negative impact than previously understood on children and vulnerable adults.

Thanks to this research, CAP has now been able to put together a set of proposals, which could raise advertising standards in the gambling industry. The proposed changes fall into two categories. The first aims to forbid creative content of gambling ads from appealing strongly to under-18s. It suggests that advertisers adopt a ‘strong appeal test’. This would identify the level of appeal that an advert’s imagery, themes and characters have on children.

As per ASA rules, child-oriented content is already banned from gambling and lottery adverts. This includes elements like superheroes and animated characters. The new proposals would take this further by putting the behaviour, language and appearance of characters under the microscope too.

CAP has also suggested prohibiting any person or character who is followed by or appeals to under-18s from appearing in gambling ads. Further to this, it recommends that there should be ‘significant implications’ for advertisers that feature celebrities and well-known sports people to promote their brands. This would also extend to ads featuring social media influencers.

This potential for a ban on celebrity endorsements in ads would cause a big shake-up. Recent gambling adverts have featured sports heroes like Michael Owen, Harry Redknapp and José Mourinho. Under the proposed new rules, these ads would no longer be permitted. However, an outright ban on celebrities in gambling ads has not been suggested. For instance, Ray Winstone, who recently found himself stranded in Sicily for six weeks, would be allowed be allowed to appear for Bet365, as he does not particularly resonate with young people.

No Need for Outright Gambling Ad Ban

The second part of the CAP proposals consist of a set of recommended prohibitions to update existing guidance. These include stopping ads from emphasising unrealistic skill or control in complex bets, showing gambling as a way to be part of a community, and suggesting that money back offers can provide security. The proposals would also prohibit unrealistic portrayals of winners and prevent advertisers from using humour to undermine gambling risks.

CAP has explained that it aims to strike a balance between letting gambling operators advertise freely to an adult audience, whilst ensuring that children and vulnerable adults are protected from any potential harms stemming from irresponsible advertising. Announcing the proposals, Shahriar Coupal, CAP Director, had this to say:

“The consultation proposes a strengthening of our rules and guidance which will help us in our ongoing work to prevent children, young and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling advertising. It responds to valuable research commissioned by GambleAware that has highlighted how gambling ads have more potential than previously understood to adversely impact these audiences – that’s something we take very seriously and that we are aiming to address.”

CAP also took the opportunity to underline its commitment to keeping gambling and lottery adverts free of harm. It added that it would not view an outright ban on gambling adverts as justified, despite calls from campaign groups. Remarking on the research paper commissioned by GambleAware, it said that it does not suggest that responsible advertising contributes to harm. In fact, evidence was found to support the current regulatory framework.

During recent years, online gambling has grown massively, as has its marketing spend. Easy access to gambling has become widely available through smartphones, tablets and laptops. Nevertheless, underage gambling activity has been on a downward trend since 2011. The number of adults that suffer from problem gambling has also remained relatively stable.

In August 2019, the Betting and Gaming Council introduced the ‘whistle to whistle ban’. The ban prevents gambling ads from being aired during lived televised sporting events. Over a year has passed since that rule came into play, and the BGC has declared it a success. According to its figures, the ban resulted in the number of gambling ads seen by 4 to 17-year olds dropping by 97%.

The BGC has continued its work to protect children from gambling harms. After the ASA found that some gambling operators had targeted adverts on websites predominantly aimed at children, the BGC decided to tighten its ad code. As part of its ‘Sixth Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising’, the BGC put in place measures to ensure that members target their adverts at legal adults.

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