Gambling Advertising – The ASA’s latest Review
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has published its long awaited review of gambling advertising. The review, announced earlier this year, was prompted by the increase in gambling advertising following deregulation after the introduction of the Gambling Act in 2007. It covers the following three key areas:
- Trends in complaints: an analysis of complaints data from 2007 onwards, to identify trends in complaints about gambling advertising;
- Public opinion on the current advertising regime: the results of research undertaken by an independent agency into the public’s views on gambling advertising;
- ASA decisions: a review by the ASA of the 398 complaints received in the past year, to decide whether they had reached the right decision in each case.
Overall, the research revealed that the public are generally satisfied with the current regime for gambling advertising. Most people also agreed with the ASA’s decisions, which they found to be appropriate and balanced.
No wholesale changes are planned at this stage. The review has, however, identified a number of specific areas of concern. As a result, the ASA is going to consider the following areas further:
“Free bet” offers and other sales promotions
There was a widespread view that gambling sales promotions were not always clearly and accurately advertised. This is borne out in practice, as the majority of complaints relate to misleading sales promotions.
“Free Bet” offers came in for specific criticism in this category. Regular gamblers were of the view that young or naïve gamblers were particularly susceptible to the concept of “free” money. Many expressed caution about how these offers should be used.
The ASA has already conducted formal investigations into misleading gambling promotions on a number of occasions. It published new guidance in this area in February 2014. The review also refers to the Gambling Commission’s proposed amendment to its licence conditions and codes of practice to make reference to this guidance. The review goes on to say that if the amendment goes ahead, it should help operators pay closer attention to the requirements for free bets and bonus offers.
This will now be a key priority area for the ASA going forward.
Children and advertising
Overall, there were few problems raised in relation to childrens’ exposure to gambling advertising. Nevertheless, this is considered an important area. Consequently, the ASA has said that it is going to look again at its approach to advertisements that might be of particular appeal to children.
Toughness in gambling advertising
Linking gambling to toughness, resilience and recklessness is not allowed under the current ASA Rules. The ASA found that there are very few complaints about breaches of this rule. However, some of the participants in the research thought that the ASA do not pay enough attention to this area in practice.
The ASA has announced plans to be more proactive in raising challenges to those advertisements that feature themes that link gambling to toughness, resilience and recklessness.
The ASA has said that the review confirms that they have been “getting it right”. However, they have said that they are going to respond to the issues identified in their report by doing the following:
- ensuring the ASA takes account of the issues highlighted in the research in the review when making decisions on cases;
- prioritising issues relating to sales promotions
- being proactive about challenging issues not raised by complaints, especially as regards “toughness” and appeal to children;
- if the ASA spots a problem, being more likely to seek a published ruling so that operators know where the law of line is drawn and why;
- being more proactive in sending cases to the ASA Council for review;
- continuing to work closely with DCMS and the Gambling Commission, particularly around offers and rewards.
If you would like to know more about any of the topics above please contact Kiran Sandford