ASA issues new standards to protect children from gambling adverts

The Advertising Standards Authority has published a new set of standards, set to come into force on April 1, 2019, which are designed to protect children and young people from irresponsible gambling ads.

Following the first review in four years assessing evidence of advertising’s impact on under-18s, and looking at rulings handed down by the ASA itself, it was stated that “that exposure to gambling ads that comply with the UK’s advertising codes is, of itself, unlikely to harm under-18s”.

However, an emphasis on the need to apply targeted restriction was noted, in order to put a stop of any potential risk that could be associated with irresponsible advertising.

Despite not issuing a change of rules, the new standards, detailed below, strive to strengthen how they apply in practice:

  • Prohibit online ads for gambling products being targeted at groups of individuals who are likely to be under 18, based on data about their online interests and browsing behaviour.
  • Extensively list unacceptable types of content, including certain types of animated characters, licensed characters from movies or TV and sportspeople and celebrities that are likely to be of particular appeal to children, and references to youth culture.
  • Prohibit the use in gambling ads of sports persons, celebrities or other characters who are or appear to be under 25.
  • Adds to existing guidance on the responsible targeting of ads, covering all media, including social networks and other online platforms.

Shahriar Coupal, director of the committees of advertising practice, explained: “Playing at the margins of regulatory compliance is a gamble at the best of times, but for gambling advertisers it’s particularly ill-advised, especially when the welfare of children is at stake.

“Our new standards respond to the latest evidence and lessons from ASA rulings, and require that greater care is taken in the placement and content of gambling ads, to ensure they are not inadvertently targeted at under 18s.”

Outlining in deeper detail the impacts of the new standards, and the effects on how and where the public sees adverts, a number of scenarios were also highlighted by the ASA, in order to deepen understanding of what needs to be done to target ads away from under-18s:

  • Social media – gambling operators must use all the tools available to them on a social network platform to prevent targeting their ads at under-18s.
  • Parts of websites for under-18s – gambling operators should take particular care to avoid placing their ads on parts of websites of particular appeal to under-18s.
  • Social and online gaming – gambling-like games, or games that feature elements of simulated gambling activity, are often popular with children and young people, such games should not be used to promote real-money gambling products.
  • Influencers – gambling operators should take particular care when identifying influencers to promote their products or brands. They should take into account the influencer’s likely appeal and obtain audience data to ensure that under-18s are not likely to comprise more than 25 per cent of the audience.
  • Affiliates – responsibility lies with gambling operators to ensure that affiliates, or other third parties acting on their behalf to publish or disseminate ads, comply with the advertising rules.