CAP consultation places gambling content and messaging under the spotlight

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) the body that governs UK Advertising Codes has launched a consultation aimed at strengthening its rules and guidance to better protect children (under-18s) and vulnerable audiences from gambling harms.

Outlined as its key objective, CAP will update its codes to restrict the potential for gambling and lottery adverts to engage and adversely impact with under-age and vulnerable audiences.

CAP opens its consultation following key findings from the ‘Final Synthesis Report’ commissioned by GambleAware in March of this year. The report highlighted that creative content of gambling-related adverts that abide by UK Advertising Codes held more vulnerable engagements than previously understood.

In light of new concerns and maintaining the highest advertising standards, CAP seeks stakeholder guidance on ‘strengthening its rules on gambling-related creative content – imagery, themes and characters’ – in which key proposals include;

  • Adopting a ‘strong appeal test’ to decrease the potential for gambling ads to attract the attention of under-18s during broadcast.
  • Expanding rules to clarify ‘child-orientated content’ covering characters’ behaviour, language, fashion/appearance etc, which are likely to appeal strongly to under-18s.
  • Prohibiting adverts from featuring a person or character, who may appeal to under-18s.

CAP clarified that its planned restrictions would see gambling advertisers prohibited from using athletes (active and retired), celebrities and social media influencers from promoting/endorsing gambling services.

As a further remit, CAP will require further guidance on prohibiting gambling operators from promoting adverts that feature;

  • Gambling as a skill or intelligence
  • Gambling as a community-based engagement
  • Money-back offers that imply security
  • Unrealistic portrayals of winnings
  • Humour or light-heartedness to down-play risks.

The body states that its proposals seek to strike a proportionate and effective balance between ‘allowing gambling operators freedom to advertise to a legitimate adult audience and the need to protect under-18s’ and vulnerable adults’.  

CAP noted that its proposals had been established under the existing framework of the ‘2005 Gambling Act’ – the legislation which removed a number of advertising restrictions allowing licensed operators to advertise their gambling services on TV and wider media platforms.

Within the industry’s current legal frameworks, CAP underlined its duties to minimise harms, in which all forms of gambling and lottery advertising must remain responsible.

In its statement to participants, CAP underlined that GambleAware commissioned research did not suggest that advertising subject to strict controls is a driver of harm and includes many findings that support the effectiveness of the current regulatory framework.

Signing off CAP’s statement Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice, Shahriar Coupal said: “the consultation proposes a strengthening of our rules and guidance which will help us in our ongoing work to prevent children, young and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling advertising.

“It responds to valuable research commissioned by GambleAware that has highlighted how gambling ads have more potential than previously understood to adversely impact these audiences – that’s something we take very seriously and that we are aiming to address.”

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