ASA: Gambling normalisation a predictable outcome of 2005’s liberalisation

UK advertising standards bodies have reiterated that the normalisation of gambling was a ‘predicted consequence’ of the 2005 Gambling Act

In its submission to the DCMS consultation of the 2005 Gambling Act, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that its role was to “prevent gambling advertising that ‘normalises’ irresponsible or potentially harmful gambling behaviour”.

The response saw the ASA document its numerous changes monitoring gambling’s advertising standards since 2005 – the year in which the government liberalised the UK’s gambling laws allowing licensed operators to promote their products freely across TV and other high coverage mediums.

Since 2005, the UK’s advertising codes have maintained separate standards for industry marketing practices, requiring adverts to not be misleading, harmful or offensive to the general public.

The advertising codes dedicated to gambling standards have been designed to ensure that gambling adverts do not exploit children, young audiences or vulnerable adults. 

Yet despite its standards, ASA and its partners the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) noted concerns that gambling had become a ‘normalised activity’ but maintained that gambling is also widely recognised as a legitimate leisure pursuit subject to a strict product licensing regime.

Mirroring the age-restricted products of alcohol and e-cigarettes, ASA stated that gambling had become ‘normalised’ by referring to the process ‘by which a product, service, or behaviour becomes an unremarkable feature of everyday life in current UK society’.

On current safeguards, ASA and its partners remarked that they had ‘limited powers on controlling the volume of gambling advertising beyond restrictions on media placements and scheduling’.

ASA also said that it could not comment on the concern from some parties around sponsorship as the practice is excluded from its governing remit, unless the operator used the sponsorship for wider advertising purposes.

In light of new advertising platforms and changing consumer habits, ASA continues to review and examine the UK’s advertising codes on gambling, which saw standards bodies publish its Final Synthesis Report last year.

The report was followed by a CAP consultation on further tightening the rules around the content and targeting of gambling ads, in particular, to further limit the appeal of gambling ads to under-18s and other vulnerable people.

These CAP proposals limited the use of sports athletes and celebrities to promote gambling brands and further restrictions on the aesthetic characteristics of gambling adverts with regards to content, characters, behaviour and appearance.

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