New guidance for British gambling advertisements

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), both independently administered by the Advertising Standards Authority, have launched new guidance for gambling advertisements in the UK, focusing on clauses common to the TV, radio and non-broadcast Codes.

CAP and BCAP have consulted leading interpreters of the Code from the CAP Copy Advice team, Clearcast, the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC) and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) to produce guidance on three clauses for which they believe the line can be more clearly drawn.

The guidance states that marketing communications should not suggest that gambling can provide an escape from personal, professional or educational problems such as loneliness or depression. Additionally, the communications should not suggest that solitary gambling is preferable to social gambling, and should not exploit cultural beliefs or traditions about gambling or luck.

The guidance makes clear that, although the gambling clauses are not intended to prevent advertisements from portraying solitary gambling online, advertisements that feature an adult losing track of time, shunning the company of others, retreating into private fantasy or engaging in secretive gambling are likely to breach the code. This point was well documented in the recent ASA adjudication against William Hill.

Although some factors, such as appeal to children or linking sensitive products with sexual success, are relatively simple to assess and apply across different product sectors, CAP recognizes that in seeking to protect the vulnerable, some rules draw a fine line between the acceptable promotion of gambling as a leisure activity and the unacceptable depicting, condoning or encouraging of irresponsible gambling behaviour.

The general principle that should be followed is that advertisements should not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.

In February, the ASA published a Compliance Survey and found that 99% of gambling advertisements in broadcast and non-broadcast media in September and October 2007 complied with the Codes. Only seven of 784 advertisements breached the Codes.

However since that announcement, the ASA has investigated a number of gambling advertisements and upheld complaints against Paddy Power, William Hill and Littlewoods. The ASA has also banned advertisements by Intercasino, Camelot, Wink Bingo, PKR and PokerStars during this time.