With the 2015 Rugby World Cup on the horizon and sport at the forefront of our minds, it is interesting to consider the 2nd Edition of the Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising (“Revised Code”), dealing with, amongst other things, the rules relating to the watershed for gambling television advertising and the exception for advertising of sports betting around televised sporting events.

The Revised Code, a copy of which can be found here, was published last month and comes into force in February 2016. It provides an update to the guidance provided by the 2007 edition of the code and is the long awaited final strand of the government’s four strand review that was announced in spring 2014 in the DCMS report by Helen Grant MP “Gambling Protections and Controls“.

The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (“IGRG”) that published the Revised Code makes clear that it is designed to supplement rather than supersede the CAP/BCAP rules, by providing industry standards on certain issues not covered by the CAP/BCAP codes.

It contains a useful restatement of general principles that gambling operators should consider and a key requirements checklist at Annex A.

In summary, it contains additional requirements relating to the inclusion and prominence of www.gambleaware.co.uk messaging in adverts but also in the sponsorship of television programmes, new limitations on pre-watershed television adverts and sports’ sponsorships, new 18+ messaging, and information about the inclusion of social responsibility messaging via banner ads and social media.

Getting into the detail, it provides the following guidance:

Inclusion and prominence of gambleaware.co.uk in adverts:

www.gambleaware.co.uk should be included on all print and broadcast media advertising, where “feasible, practical and necessary..” and should be “clearly legible” (para. 26). The inclusion of this requirement has also been extended to the sponsorship of TV programmes (para. 43).

In terms of prominence (para. 29):

  • for TV advertising, it “must remain on the screen for at least 10% of the advert’s length”;
  • for print advertising, it “should be clearly legible in proportion to the advertising script”; and
  • for digital advertising, “it should be a minimum of 100px across” .

Television advertising – new pre-watershed requirements

The watershed time will continue to be 9.00pm, but the Revised Code emphasises that “advertising” as defined in the Gambling Act 2005 includes sponsorship of TV programmes and therefore the restrictions are broader than might be anticipated. In addition there are new requirements on pre-watershed television advertising such that it:

  • “cannot include sign-up offers which are targeted solely at new customers”; and
  • “cannot make reference to other gambling products that would not normally qualify for pre-9.00pm exemption” (para. 33).

TV and Radio – responsible gambling messaging

  • The Revised Code now requires that at the end of every gambling advert on TV, a social responsibility message is prominently included (para. 36).
  • It also flags the need to ensure that the size and prominence of text and subtitling of the messaging is sufficient and refers to the ASA guidance relating to on-screen text and subtitling in TV adverts; the ASA guidance is available here.
  • Radio adverts will also need to include either (i) a brief responsible gambling message (e.g. ‘don’t let the game play you’); or (ii) a voiceover referring listeners to www.gambleaware.co.uk at the end of the advert (para. 38).

18+ messaging

There is a new specific requirement for every TV and print advert to include clearly an ’18+’ symbol or a ‘no under 18s’ message, except where lotteries are being marketed – in which case a ‘no under 16s’ message is required (para. 39).

Social Media

The Revised Code supplements the CAP Code by adding a provision that all gambling operators should include on their corporate webpages (i) responsible gambling messaging; and (ii) more detailed information available via links.

Further that social media pages run by operators must include the ’18+’ symbols or a ‘no under 18s’ message and a reference to www.gambleaware.co.uk (para. 45).

Online banner advertising

The Revised Code acknowledges that there may be space constraints with banner ads. However, it recommends that where there are such constraints, the click-throughs often used to provide further product information should be used to set out (i) the operator’s own responsible gambling content; or (ii) generic information e.g. www.gambleaware.co.uk (para 40).

What next?

It is noted in the Revised Code that:

  • due to the potential for new developments in new technology, new forms of media will be a priority for monitoring (paras 52- 53); and further
  • that the government intends to work with the industry and stakeholders to take further steps to ensure that under 18s are given the right level of protection when using social media (para 46).

It will be interesting to see what additional obligations may transpire as a result of these points that are acknowledged in the Revised Code.

Finally, in terms of the ramifications of breaching the Revised Code. It is not designed to be mandatory but to provide a standard by which the social responsibility of operators can be measured. However, the Revised Code does provide that the IGRG is going to be putting in place a new system for addressing complaints and breaches of the Revised Code, potentially in December 2015; watch this space for further details..