New standards to protect children from ‘irresponsible’ gambling adverts have been published by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP). The new guidelines prohibit online adverts for gambling products being targeted at people ‘likely to be under 18’, along with the use of celebrities, sportspeople or others who are – or appear to be – under 25.
A 2016 report from the Gambling Commission estimated that around 9,000 children in England and Wales were ‘problem gamblers’, with 450,000 gambling every week via fruit machines, scratch cards or other means. Twice as many 11-15 year olds had gambled in the last week than had drunk alcohol, the review found, with three quarters reporting seeing gambling ads on TV.
The new standards, which come into force in April, include a list of unacceptable content that includes licensed characters from films or TV, certain types of animated characters such as cartoon animals, references to youth culture, and use of sportspeople and celebrities ‘likely to be of particular appeal to children’.
‘More freedom for gambling operators to market their products has gone hand-in-hand with huge growth of digital gambling platforms,’ says the report. ‘Online gambling is now readily accessible through smartphones and other internet-connected devices. Developments in social media have given rise to new marketing channels through which operators seek to engage more directly with consumers.’
Games that feature elements of simulated gambling are also not to be used to promote ‘real money’ gambling products, and gambling companies also need to avoid placing their adverts on web pages likely to appeal to under-18s, such as the parts of football club websites aimed at younger supporters. They must also ‘use all the tools available to them’ to prevent targeting young people on social network platforms, including information around browsing behaviour and users’ interests.
‘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,’ said CAP director Shahriar Coupal. ‘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.’
Protecting children and young people – gambling guidance here and at www.asa.org.uk
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