The Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP and BCAP respectively) have published guidance on certain rules regulating various aspects of gambling advertisements. Since February 2008, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has investigated six gambling advertisements and upheld complaints against three. CAP and BCAP therefore decided that some rules, especially those drawing a fine line between acceptable promotion of gambling as a leisure activity and unacceptable depicting, condoning or encouraging of irresponsible gambling behaviour, warranted clarification. Regarding each Clause of the CAP Code discussed below, the BCAP and BCAP Radio rules are very similar.

ESCAPE FROM PROBLEMS

Clause 57.4(c) of the CAP Code states “Marketing communications should not suggest that gambling can provide an escape from personal, professional or educational problems such as loneliness or depression.”

The guidance suggests that:

“Advertisements should not suggest that gambling can alleviate mental distress and should avoid portraying extreme contrasts in emotion before and after gambling. Advertisements may, however, feature someone in a state of excitement after a win or disappointed after a loss and may suggest that, enjoyed responsibly as a leisure activity, gambling can help relieve boredom.”

SOLITARY GAMBLING

Clause 57.4(k) of the CAP Code states “Marketing communications should not suggest that solitary gambling is preferable to social gambling.”

The guidance provides that:

“These rules are not intended to prevent the depiction of solitary gambling online: they address concerns about people gambling alone. An advertisement that contrasts solitary gambling favourably with social gambling is likely to fall foul of this rule. A gambling advertisement that features an adult losing track of time, shunning the company of others, retreating into private fantasy or engaging in secretive gambling is likely to breach the general principle of the Codes that advertisements should not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.”

CULTURAL BELIEFS OR TRADITIONS ABOUT GAMBLING OR LUCK

Clause 57.4(q) of the CAP Code states “Marketing communications should not exploit cultural beliefs or traditions about gambling or luck.”

The guidance suggests:

“Advertisements should avoid the use of cultural symbols and systems such as horoscopes if those symbols relate to an existing, strongly and communally held belief. These rules are not intended to prevent references to symbols or obsolete superstitions that are unlikely to be taken seriously, such as a clover leaf.”

COMMENT

CAP and BCAP doubtless hope the new guidance will benefit advertisers, agencies and media owners alike. The guidelines seek to further protect the vulnerable by clarifying less obvious issues surrounding the promotion of gambling. However, both CAP and BCAP stress that the guidance “neither constitutes new rules nor binds the ASA Councils in the event of a complaint about an advertisement that follows it”.