On 13 February 2019 the Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA") published new standards which aim to protect children and young people from irresponsible gambling ads.

The new guidance will come into force on 1 April 2019, and is intended to help marketers interpret the UK CAP Code and BCAP Code (together, the "Advertising Codes") as they relate to the protection of under-18s.

The ASA makes clear that its view is that the Advertising Codes don’t need to change because ads that comply with the rules are unlikely to harm children. However, the new standards strengthen and clarify how the rules apply in practice and aim to stop irresponsible advertising.

The Advertising Codes limit children’s exposure to gambling ads and ensure that, if under-18s see ads directed at adults, they are not likely to be influenced detrimentally.

The ASA guidance aims to build on the current rules by providing detail on approaches that are likely to be unacceptable in individual marketing communications. The guidance applies to all marketing communications including those on social media.

The new guidance:

  • states that the ASA expects that marketers should be able to provide robust evidence that they have been diligent in forecasting the likely audience for a gambling ad;
  • sets out some further information about types of content that would be unacceptable on the grounds that it is likely to be of particular appeal to under 18s, including certain types of animated characters, licensed characters from movies or TV and sportspeople and celebrities;
  • reminds marketers of the prohibition on featuring sportspersons, celebrities or other characters who are or appear to be under 25 in gambling ads; and
  • adds to existing guidance on the responsible targeting of ads.

In particular, the new standards assist advertisers by providing practical examples about how compliance can be achieved in various different scenarios. These are summarised as follows:

Social media

Gambling operators must use all the tools available to them on a social network platform to prevent targeting their ads at under-18s.

Parts of websites for under-18s

Gambling operators should take particular care to avoid placing their ads on parts of websites of particular appeal to under-18s.

Social and online gaming

Gambling-like games should not be used to promote real-money gambling, as these games are often popular with children and young people.

Influencers

Operators should take particular care when identifying influencers to promote their products or brands. They should take into account the influencer’s likely appeal and obtain audience data to ensure that under-18s are not likely to comprise more than 25% of the audience.

Affiliates

Responsibility lies with gambling operators to ensure that affiliates or other third parties acting on their behalf to publish or disseminate ads comply with the advertising rules.

Key takeaways

The new guidance is clearly focused on the rise of social media and the use of influencers to promote gambling products. It is also intended to provide some much needed clarity on what content will be deemed to be “of particular appeal” to children.

The ASA's update was published a few days after a BBC Panorama programme which covered the story of a 13-year-old spending his money on gambling-type games, having watched a YouTube influencer doing the same. YouTube influencers often have a young fan base and operators should take care to consider the audience data of influencers they work with.

These rules continue to demonstrate the regulator's tough stance on protecting children from harm, which was made clear in the recent ASA ruling on in-app ads for gambling, and the Gambling Commission's new rules on age verification for online operators.