CAP announces new restrictions on free bets, bonuses and calls to action

UK bookmakers will have to revamp their marketing after the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) tightened up gambling advertising standards, with particular emphasis on live betting promotions.

While bookmakers will still be able to advertise live odds, CAP says the advertisement should not unduly pressure the audience to gamble; so urgent calls to action – such as “Bet Now!” – are likely to break the rules because they could pressure consumers into participating when they otherwise would not.

The new guidelines also make clear that “money back” offers must be in cash and not bonuses; “risk free” offers must incur no loss to the consumer; and when it comes to “matched bets”, any stake limitation should be treated as a significant condition and stated upfront.

Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice Shahriar Coupal said: “We won’t tolerate gambling ads that exploit people’s vulnerabilities or play fast and loose with eye-catching free bet and bonus offers.  Our new guidance takes account of the best available evidence to strengthen the protections already in place, ensuring that gambling is presented responsibly, minimising the potential for harm.”

The Remote Gambling Association commented: “In recent months we have worked constructively with The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) and other stakeholders on a range of related issues.  This new guidance is the latest reflection of that and we fully support the thrust of the new measures.

“We hope and believe that collectively this and other initiatives will go a long way to addressing many of the concerns that have been expressed about gambling advertising, especially on television.”

CAP’s new standards on free bets and bonuses aim to help advertisers understand the ASA, CAP and Gambling Commission’s current position on acceptable claims in ads and how terms and conditions should be displayed or signposted: Significant conditions must always be prominently displayed with an advertised offer.  Other terms and conditions of the offer need to be, at most, one click away from the advertising.  Failure to qualify free bets and bonus offers in this way are unacceptable and will lead to sanction by the ASA.

Significant conditions are those which are likely to affect a consumer’s understanding of the promotion, and are likely to include any requirement for a consumer to deposit their own funds, restricted odds, eligibility, wagering and withdrawal requirements.

The majority of complaints to the ASA about terms and conditions in gambling ads are about the requirement for consumers to make a deposit to access their “free bets/bonus” or the number of times they must then wager their “free bet” and deposit money before they are allowed to withdraw any winnings.

Other standards being introduced include:

  • Curb trivialisation of gambling (e.g. encouraging repetitive play);
  • Prevent approaches that give an irresponsible perception of the risk or control (e.g. “Risk Free Deposit Bonus”);
  • Provide greater detail on problem gambling behaviours and associated behaviours indicators that should not be portrayed, even indirectly;
  • Prevent undue emphasis on money-motives for gambling; and
  • Provide more detail on vulnerable groups like problem gamblers that marketers need to work to protect.

While some of the standards are designed to protect vulnerable groups, CAP said that the evidence reviewed in developing the guidance suggests that advertising does not play a causal or even significant role in problem gambling or harm in general. Problem gambling rates have in fact remained relatively stable during a period of considerable growth in advertising volumes.  Although the overall impact is small, the evidence points to potential risk factors in the form of claims, imagery or approaches that might unduly influence people to behave irresponsibly. That’s why CAP is setting tougher standards to tackle any potential for harm. Ads must not play on individuals’ susceptibilities (financial concerns, self-esteem) or contain anything that might exploit vulnerable groups such as those with problem gambling issues.

The new standards will come into effect on 2 April 2018.  CAP’s work on this complements the work the Competition and Markets Authority has done to ensure gambling firms are upfront and clear about their promotional terms and conditions, while also making them fairer.

Marketing and bonuses will be discussed on the first day of Betting on Football Conference, 20-23 March at Stamford Bridge. For more information visit www.sbcevents.com