Gambling: Regulators get tougher on advertisers
Worth Knowing About Because…
Following a Competition and Marketing Authority (CMA) investigation into the use of ‘bonus funds’ and ‘free bet’ promotions on gambling and gaming websites, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and The UK Gambling Commission have issued new Guidance for Advertisers of Free Bets and Bonuses.
The CAP have also issued new tougher standards on responsibility and problem gambling. The aim being to restrict ads that encourage repetitive play, to restrict ads that create a false sense of urgency and to prevent ads that can be seen to be exploiting the financial status of consumers and playing on vulnerable characteristics of consumers.
The new standards accord with the existing views of the ASA and the new guidance provides clear advice to advertisers who operate in the sector, in particular on how terms and conditions should be signposted. These new standards will come into force on the 2 April 2018, except for those restrictions relating to ‘free bets’ which came into enforce immediately.
What do the Standards Say?
On Significant Conditions…
- Significant conditions should be displayed clearly with the advertised offer. If this is not done, then the ad will be misleading.
- Significant conditions are those that are likely to affect the consumer’s understanding of the promotion and include any requirements for a consumer to deposit their own funds, together with details of play-through or wagering requirements. These could include, but are not limited to: restricted odds; eligibility; deposit, wagering and withdrawal requirements – whether limitations or for different games.
On Types of Offers…
- Any ‘Money back’ offers must be in cash, not bonuses.
- Any ‘Risk free’ offers must incur no loss to the consumer.
- For ‘Matched bet’ offer any stake limitation is regarded as a significant condition which should be stated clearly upfront.
On Flagging Terms in Advertising…
- When advertising on own websites and emails time and space is not limited for the advertiser. The full terms and conditions for offers and promotions should therefore be easily accessible and should be displayed in the advertising itself.
- When advertising on platforms where time and space is significantly limited (pop-up banners for example), less significant or full terms and conditions should be at most one click away from the offer or promotion. However, the ASA is unlikely to side with the advertiser if there was a clear creative opportunity that meant the terms and conditions could have been displayed in the ad itself.
On Problem Gambling and Social Responsibility…
- It is crucial that advertisers within the gambling, gaming and entertainment sectors understand the factors that can lead to problem gambling and take all reasonable steps to avoid problem gambling behaviour.
- One of the many factors the ASA will consider when assessing ads within the sector is whether they are targeting ‘vulnerable groups’ (for example children, problem gamblers etc)
- Advertisers should not portray gambling as ‘risk free’.
- Advertisers should also not create an inappropriate sense of urgency for example ads stating ‘Bet Now!’ or ads that emphasise time running out. This is particularly an interesting point as adverts relating to live sporting events are likely to be caught under this.
- Advertisers should not trivialise gambling (e.g. encouraging repetitive play, encouraging to spend more than the individual can afford, encouraging accounts to be opened).
- Advertisers should not display problem gambling in a positive light. Ads should avoid referring to behavioural traits linked to problem gambling (losing track of time, isolation etc.) including using humour when referring to these traits.
- Advertisers should also not portray gambling as a solution to financial concerns.
The new standards are a largely response to concerns that ‘bet free’, ‘free bonus’ and other similar offers used in gambling and gaming advertisements could encourage consumers to play for longer than they originally intended so that they can withdraw their own funds.
There are tough consequences for advertisers who fail to adhere to the rules. While the ASA cannot impose fines in respect of advertising, other regulators can investigate where the ASA has brought a matter to light. In February 2018 the UK Gambling Commission fined ElectraWorks £350,000. This fine followed an ASA ruling in August 2016 under the old rules in which ElectraWorks were found to be misleading consumers with a ‘free bonus’ advertisement. Numerous other problematic ads were also discovered during 2016 and 2017. Similar penalties are likely where advertisers continue to fall foul of the new standards.
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The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
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