The Committee of Advertising Practice has launched a consultation aimed at enhancing its rules and guidance to better protect under-18’s and vulnerable audiences from gambling harms.

CAP, the body that governs UK Advertising Codes, highlighted that the consultation is said to respond to key findings from the ‘Final Synthesis Report’, commissioned by GambleAware, which provided the ‘first’ wide-ranging and in-depth picture of the impact of marketing and advertising in the UK. 

Its findings suggest that the creative content of gambling and lotteries advertising that abides by the UK Advertising Codes has more potential, than previously understood, to adversely impact under-18s and vulnerable adults.

Signing off CAP’s statement director of the committees of advertising practice, Shahriar Coupal, noted: “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 has called for stakeholder guidance on ‘strengthening its rules on gaming-related creative – imagery, themes and characters’, which the key proposals set to include:

  • Adopting a ‘strong appeal test’ to decrease the potential for gambling ads to attract the attention of under-18s during broadcast.
  • Expanding rules to clarify ‘child-orientated content’ covering characters’ behaviour, language, fashion/appearance etc, which are likely to appeal strongly to under-18s.
  • Prohibiting adverts from featuring a person or character, who may appeal to under-18s.

CAP confirmed that its planned restrictions would see gambling advertisers prohibited from using athletes (active and retired), celebrities and social media influencers from promoting/endorsing gambling services.

Furthermore, CAP is looking to update the existing guidance to prohibit:

  • Presenting complex bets in a way that emphasises the skill or intelligence involved to suggest, inappropriately, a level of control over the bet that is unlikely to apply in practice.
  • Presenting gambling as a way to be part of a community based on skill.
  • Implying that money back offers create security (for example, because they give gamblers the chance to play again if they fail or that a bet is ‘risk free’ or low risk).
  • Humour or light-heartedness being used specifically to play down the risks of gambling.
  • Unrealistic portrayals of winners (for example, winning first time or easily).

The committee states that its proposals aim to find a proportionate and effective balance between ‘allowing gambling operators freedom to advertise to a legitimate adult audience and the need to protect under-18s’ and vulnerable adults’.  

In its statement, CAP underlined that GambleAware commissioned research did not suggest that advertising subject to strict controls is a driver of harm and includes many findings that support the effectiveness of the current regulatory framework.

The statement concluded: “Over a period when gambling marketing spend online has increased exponentially and the range of internet connected consumer devices has revolutionised ease of access to gambling, the overall trend in underage participation in any gambling activity (for example, gambling with friends, fruit machines and scratch cards) has declined significantly since 2011 and adult problem gambling rates have remained stable.”