Celebrities & Sports Stars Could be Banned from Gambling Adverts

Well-known celebrities, sports stars and social media influencers could be barred from appearing in gambling advertisements under proposals by the Committee of Advertising Practice.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has proposed that famous people should be unable to feature in advertisements for gambling companies. CAP also plans a blanket ban on all gambling ads which appeal ‘strongly’ to those under the age of 18. If introduced, this would be a significant change to current guidelines which state that gambling advertisements must not appeal specifically to children.

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CAP propose gambling advert restrictions ©Pixabay.

The revised ‘strong’ definition will focus on the imagery, themes and characters used by the bookmakers to market their products. However, operators will still be able to refer in general teams about topics such as sport, good causes, teams or individuals generally considered popular with under 18s. For example, they would be able to reference a player in the next goalscorer market or a scoreline between two teams.

The Committee of Advertising Practice are the body who create advertisement regulations, and it is the Advertisement Standards Authority (ASA) who enforce the rules.

The CAP explained what impact the proposals would have, saying:

It will have a significant effect on the acceptability of celebrities like sports personalities and reality TV stars featuring in gambling ads, for example, featuring the England football captain in a gambling ad would be prohibited under this new rule. CAP, statement

According to the advertising standards authority website, the proposals that are open to consultation include:

  • Strengthen the rules to prohibit creative content of gambling and lotteries ads from appealing ‘strongly’ to under-18s (currently gambling ads are prohibited from appealing particularly to under-18s; in other words, they are banned from appealing more to under-18s than to adults)
  • ‘A ‘strong’ appeal test identifies content (imagery, themes and characters) that has a strong level of appeal to under-18s regardless of how adults view it
  • Adopting the ‘strong’ appeal test would decrease the potential for gambling ads to attract the attention of under-18s in an audience
  • Child-oriented content (like animated characters and superheroes) are already banned. The new rules would extend to cover characters’ behaviour, language, fashion/appearance etc, which are likely to appeal strongly to under 18s
  • In particular, ads would be prohibited from including a person or character who is likely to be followed by those aged under 18 years or who has a strong appeal to those aged under 18
  • The new restriction would have significant implications for gambling advertisers looking to promote their brands using prominent sportspeople and celebrities, and also individuals like social media influencers

Along with the changes outlined above, the CAP will also update its guidance to prohibit:

    • Presenting complex bets in a way that emphasises the skill or intelligence involved to suggest, inappropriately, a level of control over the bet that is unlikely to apply in practice;
    • presenting gambling as a way to be part of a community based on skill;
    • implying that money back offers create security (for example, because they give gamblers the chance to play again if they fail or that a bet is ‘risk free’ or low risk);
    • humour or light-heartedness being used specifically to play down the risks of gambling; and unrealistic portrayals of winners (for example, winning first time or easily)

If the proposals are enacted, it could have a significant impact on operators, many of which have brand ambassadors in place which would break the proposed rules. Paddy Power, for example, employs current Tottenham Hotspur manager José Mourinho who features in commercials for the Irish bookmaker. The new rules would also prevent companies from implying that gambling success is due to skill; they would also be prevented from using humour to downplay the impact of losing a bet.

The consultation closes on 22 January 2021.

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