Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Gambling adverts subject to restrictions under new guidance

Out-Law News | 24 Nov 2021 | 3:54 pm | 2 min. read

Guidance has come into effect which will restrict the way gambling and gaming can be shown in advertising, as part of ongoing efforts to ensure that gambling advertising does not encourage or condone risky or irresponsible behaviour.

The gambling advertising guidance (17 page / 402KB PDF), produced by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), will restrict adverts which emphasise skill or knowledge and could lead to the wrong perception of risk levels. This means gambling companies cannot promote products which suggest someone’s skill could help them make a particular selection or choose a more complex product. 

Adverts which present gambling as a way to be part of a community based on skill are also restricted, although messaging relating to community participation such as online social interaction more generally will still be permitted.

Gambling companies will also be restricted from implying that money back, free bets or enhanced odds offers can reduce risk. This restriction builds on existing guidance cautioning against the implication that an activity or offer is without risk. CAP said it was not intended to prevent particular offers from being made but covered how these were presented in advertising.

CAP said the rules applied in spirit as well as in letter, and marketers should take particular care when preparing social media campaigns. It reminded gambling companies the guidance, and the CAP and BCAP Codes which it was interpreting, applied also to affiliates and third parties.

Licensing law expert Audrey Ferrie of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “The changes to the guidance reflect continuing concerns amongst consumers, politicians and regulators around the advertising of gambling products.”

Separately, the Gambling Commission is consulting on proposed changes to its Licensing, Compliance and Enforcement Policy. The policy was last updated in 2017 and the changes are intended to set out the position on products which appear to require dual regulation; clarify requirements relating to operating and personal licences; and reflect recent changes to the process on licence review, suspension and regulatory settlement.

The updated policy will also incorporate the Gambling Commission’s special measures approach, which it has been piloting over the last 12 months.

The Commission said it would not normally grant licences that should be regulated by other regulators, notably those whose name, branding, marketing or rules contained language associated with financial services.

The revised policy suggests the Gambling Commission will look beyond the principal applicant for a licence when considering their suitability, and consider others connected with the applicant such as beneficial owners or controllers. It will also not grant an operating licence until it is fully satisfied the operation will not be financed by the proceeds of crime or will finance criminal activity.

Other changes include requirements to update the Commission with changes in ownership and other regulatory returns, with the threat of regulatory action if the regulator is not kept informed. The revised policy also clarifies how the Gambling Commission will carry out remote compliance assessments where these are needed, and how it will use the new special measures process.

The consultation is open until 9 February 2022.

“The clarifications and updates to the policy are overdue given the fast changing environment in which the industry operates,” said Audrey Ferrie. “I would still like to see clearer guidelines on penalties.”

Both moves continue work to strengthen UK rules governing gambling. In December 2020 the government launched a review of the Gambling Act, with the intention of exploring how the legislation protected consumers and the role and powers of the Gambling Commission, among other areas. A white paper containing proposals for reform is expected in early 2022.