Gambling updates from the Advertising Standards Authority; lockdown, eSports and children’s exposure to gambling adverts
The Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) has recently published guidance on advertising gambling amid lockdown, the marketing of eSports on social media, and a report on children’s exposure to gambling TV ads in 2019.
Gambling advertising during lockdown
As noted in our previous blog posts, the gambling industry is under a microscope during the current COVID-19 pandemic and has been subject to new expectations and guidance. Consideration must also be given to gambling advertising, and the ASA has published a “warning” to gambling operators to “pay even more attention to their responsibility under the [CAP and BCAP] Codes during these uncertain times”.
The CAP and BCAP advertising codes make it clear that marketing of gambling products must not be:
- irresponsible in its use of content or themes that might exploit vulnerabilities; or
- targeted through its content or placement at under-18s.
The global pandemic has created a new context of vulnerabilities and potentially heightened consumer risk to gambling-related harms. The ASA is therefore encouraging people to report gambling ads that:
- refer to the COVID-19 crisis or related matters, such as the Government’s lockdown policy; and/or
- include claims or themes that are of particular concern in the current climate (for example, ads that refer to relieving boredom, repeated play or personal problems like family difficulties).
The ASA appreciates that these are not new concerns but that they are exacerbated during the current circumstances. The ASA has further noted that it will “take swift action against ads that, in context of the present crisis, are likely to exploit people’s vulnerabilities or encourage irresponsible behaviour”.
Marketing eSports on social media
On 23 April 2020, the ASA published an advice note on the marketing of gambling on eSports on social media. The advice to licensed operators follows the ASA’s study on eSports betting marketing on social media and is to close any potential gaps between the relatively new concept of eSports and the existing CAP and BCAP codes. The advice applies to gambling marketing on all social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Twitch and TikTok.
The advice confirms that the CAP code rules that apply to the marketing of gambling on eSports:
- are the same as those of traditional marketing on gambling; and
- cover social media in the same way as they do all other non-broadcast media.
Whilst the rules are the same for eSports as for traditional marketing on gambling, the advice highlights CAP Code rules that are relevant to marketing eSports on social media, including:
- Recognition of marketing: marketing communications must be obviously identifiable and must not falsely claim that the marketer is acting as a consumer, requiring social media marketing posts to be clearly labelled as such. For example, by using “#ad”.
- Targeting: operators should take all reasonable steps to ensure advertising is not targeted at under-18s through the selection of media, or platform, or the ad’s content. For example, if gambling marketing can be searched for on a social media platform using terms that are likely to have particular appeal to children and there are no measures in place to protect children from seeing that marketing, then it is likely they will be breaking the CAP code targeting rules.
- Appeal to under-18s: marketing must not be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons. For example, by using cartoons or by using a social media influencer who is associated with youth culture to promote eSports betting.
- Terms and conditions: similar to the traditional marketing of gambling, the terms and conditions of offers of free bets should be made clear in gambling marketing on social media.
- Affiliates and influencers: the advice provides a reminder that affiliates of gambling operators must also abide by the targeting and content rule and that gambling operators are responsible for the content produced for them on social media by influencers.
Children’s exposure to gambling adverts
On 22 May 2020, the ASA published a report titled Children’s exposure to age-restricted TV ads: 2019 update. The findings show that children’s exposure to gambling advertising has remained at a similar level over the last six years, since a peak in 2013. Since then, children’s exposure to TV gambling ads has decreased by just under half. Most of those adverts viewed by children were in relation to lottery, scratch cards and bingo.