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Tougher standards on gambling advertising announced by regulator

Posted 14/02/18

  • New standards to prevent appeals to those vulnerable to gambling problems, particularly urgent calls to action
  • New standards on free bets and bonuses

Today, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) – the body that writes and maintains the UK’s Advertising Codes – has announced tougher standards on gambling advertising, focusing on ads’ appeal to problem gamblers and on free bets and bonuses.  Both sets of standards form part of continued efforts to make sure regulation prevents harm and promotes responsible advertising.

The new standards on problem gambling:

  • Restrict ads that create an inappropriate sense of urgency like those including “Bet Now!” offers during live events;
  • 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. 

The 2005 Gambling Act liberalised gambling advertising in the UK and since then, the market has grown significantly with new online platforms to advertise and for people to participate in gambling.

Evidence reviewed in developing the CAP 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 adverting 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.

By publishing the new standards, CAP is also meeting its commitment as set out in the UK Government’s recent consultation on proposals for changes to Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures. 

The new standards will come into effect on 2 April 2018.  The Advertising Standards Authority – the body that enforces the Advertising Codes – will use the standards when considering future complaints about ads.

Later this year, CAP will publish further guidance focusing on the protection of children and young people.

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.

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.

The standards 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.

The free bets and bonuses standards come into effect on Thursday 15 Feb 2018.

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.”

These new standards follow work already carried out by CAP on gambling. This includes producing standards on affiliate marketing in 2017 which applies to gambling affiliates. The ASA has since banned several ads under the new standards. In October 2017 CAP, the ASA, the Gambling Commission and the Remote Gambling Association sent out a joint letter highlighting to online gambling operators the rules on children and gambling and calling on them to remove games which are likely to appeal to children, or risk an imminent ASA investigation.



Published on behalf of the Advertising Standards Agency

Media enquiries

Media and Public Affairs Manager, Shabnum Mustapha
ShabnumM@ASA.Org.UK/ 020 7492 2118

Senior Media Relations Officer, Matt Wilson
MattW@ASA.Org.UK/ 020 7492 2122

Media & Public Affairs Assistant, Estelle Yuen
EstelleY@ASA.Org.UK/ 020 7492 2121


Notes to editors:

  1. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is responsible for writing and maintaining The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing covers advertisements placed in traditional and new media, sales promotions, direct marketing communications and marketing communications on marketers’ own websites. 
  1. Further information about CAP is available at www.asa.org.uk
  1. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the independent regulator of advertisements across all media in the UK.  It does so in the public interest and with the co-operation of advertisers, agencies and media owners who are committed to observing the Advertising Codes. The ASA acts independently of both the Government and the advertising industry.
  1. Information on the Competition and Markets Authority work on gambling promotional terms and conditions is available here.
  1. If you would like a copy of the new problem gambling and free bets standards, contact the CAP/ASA press office.

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