Gambling ads that offer free bonuses and urge consumers to bet immediately during live events are to face tougher restrictions as part of efforts to protect problem gamblers.
The new standards, which will take effect from April 2, will restrict ads that create an “inappropriate” sense of urgency, such as those that include “bet now” messages during live events or encourage repetitive play, the Committees of Advertising Practice (Cap) has announced.
Ads must not play on individuals’ susceptibilities, such as financial concerns or self-esteem, or contain anything that might exploit vulnerable groups such as those with problem gambling issues.
The 2005 Gambling Act liberalised gambling advertising in the UK and the market has grown significantly since then, with new online platforms to advertise and for people to participate in gambling.
Cap said the evidence it considered while developing the new guidance suggested that advertising did not play a causal or even significant role in problem gambling or harm in general, and that problem gambling rates had remained relatively stable during a period of considerable growth in advertising.
But it said even though the overall impact was small, evidence pointed to potential risk factors that might influence people to gamble irresponsibly.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will use the standards when considering future complaints about ads.
Cap director 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.”
Advertising Association chief executive Stephen Woodford said the new guidelines were an “essential and welcome addition” to advertising codes.
He said: “Our industry recognises the gambling sector is one which requires close, consistent and effective monitoring by our own regulatory bodies, as well as concerted effort through public education campaigns that use the ability of advertising to affect positive societal change.”
Last year the Government flagged strengthening the code on responsible gambling advertising among a raft of suggestions designed to help minimise risk to vulnerable people.
In October it announced cuts to the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to between £50 and £2.