ASA: Normalisation was a ‘predicted consequence’ of 2005 Gambling Act

Normalisation of gambling was a ‘predicted consequence’ of the 2005 Gambling Act, according to the UK Advertising Standards Authority

Submitting its document to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport consultation of the 2005 Gambling Act, the ASA explained its duty was to ‘present gambling advertising that ‘normalises’ irresponsible or potentially harmful gambling behaviour’.

Within the document, the ASA and its partners the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice raised concerns that gambling has become a ‘normalised activity’, yet reiterated that gambling is also widely recognised as a legitimate leisure pursuit subject to a strict product licensing regime. 

Since 2005, the UK’s advertising codes have maintained separate standards for industry marketing practices, requiring adverts to not be misleading, harmful or offensive to the general public.

The advertising codes dedicated to gambling standards have been designed to ensure that gambling adverts do not exploit children, young audiences or vulnerable adults. 

Additionally, the ASA claimed that, to date, it has not seen evidence of harm from gambling advertising to which volume restrictions (as opposed to scheduling, placement, or content restrictions) could be the appropriate response.

On current safeguards, ASA and its partners remarked that they had ‘limited powers on controlling the volume of gambling advertising beyond restrictions on media placements and scheduling’.

ASA also said that it could not comment on the concern from some parties around sponsorship as the practice is excluded from its governing remit, unless the operator used the sponsorship for wider advertising purposes.

In light of new advertising platforms and changing consumer habits, ASA continues to review and examine the UK’s advertising codes on gambling, which saw standards bodies publish its Final Synthesis Report last year.

The report was followed by a CAP consultation on further tightening the rules around the content and targeting of gambling ads, in particular, to further limit the appeal of gambling ads to under-18s and other vulnerable people.

These CAP proposals limited the use of sports athletes and celebrities to promote gambling brands and further restrictions on the aesthetic characteristics of gambling adverts with regards to content, characters, behaviour and appearance.

In February this year, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against a Ladbrokes on-demand video ad, which depicted a café scene and various people using the company’s app on their mobile phones.

Seen on All4 on October 25, 2020, it featured a clip of a horse race, a voice-over which stated “Come starter’s orders, I’m a bag of nerves,” and a man’s leg that was shaking, with the complainant challenging whether the ad depicted gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible.