UKGC Issues Facebook Ad Guidance

The Gambling Commission has joined forces with Facebook to produce guidance on limiting users of the platform’s exposure to gambling adverts. Facebook users will now be able to use the guidance to find out how they can adjust their individual account settings to control what can and can’t appear on their newsfeeds. Meanwhile, the BGC has bolstered its efforts to reduce the number of gambling ads shown to underage consumers.

A laptop on a desk next to a plant, showing the Facebook website.

The UKGC’s new guidance will make it easier for Facebook users to adjust their ad settings online. ©Pixabay/Pexels

Controlling Targeted Ads

The Gambling Commission has committed to working with social media platform Facebook in a bid to help those who are vulnerable to gambling harms minimize their exposure to unwanted gambling ads. During recent years, campaigners have called on the regulator to improve safeguards around advertising. Those calls have become even more frequent in the run-up to the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act later this autumn, with some MPs calling for an outright ban on gambling ads.

The Gambling Commission’s new guidance for Facebook users includes information on how to hide adverts from newsfeeds. This can be done by navigating through the ‘Why am I seeing this ad?’ feature present on all of the platform’s adverts. Alternatively, users can go straight to the Ad Preferences tool, where they can review advertisers recently featured on their feeds and opt out of specific advertising topics. These features can be used to manage user data and control targeted adverts both on and off Facebook.

The regulator’s new guidance for Facebook users comes as part of its advertising technology challenge, in which it aims to raise industry standards. This has already led to the industry bringing in new practices to safeguard those who are vulnerable to gambling harms from being exposed to excessive advertising. Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, explained why this issue is so important to tackle:

“Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling is at the heart of what we do, which is why I challenged the industry to look at how they can make better use of technology to prevent gambling-related content and adverts being seen by those individuals.”

McArthur went on to explain how partnering with the social media platform has enabled it to make sure that clear and practical advice can be made directly accessible to users wanting to limit the amount of gambling content on their newsfeeds. Facebook is currently estimated to have an active user base of 2.7 billion monthly users around the world, with around 44.84 users in the UK. It is clear from the platform’s popularity that the Gambling Commission’s new guidance will be good news for many users.

Rick Kelley, vice president of Global Gaming at Facebook, has welcomed the Gambling Commission’s new guidance. Speaking in a press release, he emphasized the social media platform’s dedication to providing positive and safe experiences for users, stating:

“Facebook is committed to supporting a safe and transparent environment for people to control their experiences on our platform. We’re delighted that our partnership with the Gambling Commission will help operators to implement advertising campaigns responsibly, while helping to protect the people who use our services.”

The Gambling Commission’s new guidance for controlling gambling-related ads on Facebook can be viewed through this pamphlet.

BGC Tightens Ad Code

This is not the first time that the UK’s gambling regulator has worked with a social media platform. Last year it partnered with Twitter to issue similar guidance for its users. That guidance also showed Twitter users how to navigate their safety tools and settings to control the number of gambling ads appearing on their feeds.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gambling Commission went further to safeguard consumers from gambling harms. With many furloughed or asked to stay at home during the lockdown, there were fears that some people would spend more time on gambling sites. For this reason, it was important to make sure that players using these sites were protected from harm.

The Betting and Gaming Council, which represents casinos, online operators and betting firms in the UK, has also put forward a new advertising code. Members of the BGC will implement the ‘Sixth Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising’ from October 1st. This new code will ensure that all gambling-related content will be ‘age-gated’.

This means that only those who have already logged in to social media accounts that are ID verified will be able to see gambling adverts and messaging. All sponsored and paid for gambling ads on social media will have to be targeted at consumers over 25 years old, unless the hosting site is able to prove that its adverts are only targeted at over 18s.

It will now also have to be clear that gambling ads on search engines are aimed at consumers aged 18 and above. Safer gambling messaging must also be included in these ads, as well as on Twitter. Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, underlined his commitment to making gambling safer, explaining:

“BGC members have a zero tolerance attitude to under-18s betting, and from requirements for safer gambling messages to restrictions on YouTube advertising, this new code shows how seriously the BGC, who represent regulated betting but not the National Lottery, take our responsibilities.”

Dugher also took the opportunity to call on the government to aid in cracking down on black market operators who do not offer customer protections. The BGC has called on better protections from online platforms to be included in the government’s upcoming review of the Gambling Act, as well as its Online Harms Bill.

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