The Romanian National Office for Gambling (the "NOG") has recently issued a Code of Ethics on Responsible Advertising in the Gambling Sector (the "Code").
The Code, which is not a legislative act (and therefore has no normative/mandatory effect of its own), sets out certain "soft-law" recommendations to gambling operators on responsible advertising.
The NOG expects gambling operators to "freely adhere" to these recommendations (but there are no sanctions at this stage), and urges gambling operators, the public and any interested NGOs to make proposals and suggestions for improvement.
Novel requirements under the Code
The Code reiterates the very basic principles on commercial advertising for gambling, such as the fact that advertising must be legal, decent, honest and truthful; ensure protection of minors and vulnerable individuals; be targeted at an adult audience in a responsible and adequate manner; be ethical and respect general standards of decency and good morals.
The Code also introduces novel, interesting and potentially consequential recommendations, including:
1. Product placement rules
- advertising, whether it is in online media, on the operator’s website or in traditional (written) media, must make it clear that it is addressed solely to individuals over 18 years of age;
- advertising in digital media by gambling operators should implement an active system of age verification;
- advertising in traditional (written) media shall not be included in formats which are traditionally addressed to minors or in pages targeted at minors;
- no advertising for gambling shall be performed in, or in the proximity of, cultural, health, arts, social, religious or similar facilities;
- no advertising for gambling shall be distributed or publicised during events that are addressed to minors, or where the participation of minors is permitted.
2. Responsible gambling
- "responsible gambling" messages must be included in any promotional materials, irrespective of the advertising medium – this message will include details on how to obtain information on the concept of "responsible gambling" (link/location/info point);
- any commercial communication must encourage responsible gambling, must be clear and not misleading or confusing;
- advertising for gambling must not encourage gambling in a manner that could lead to compulsive behaviour (by indicating, for example, that frequent gambling (may) increase chances of winnings);
- advertising for gambling must respect each individual’s option not to gamble by refraining from negatively portraying a person’s decision not to gamble or to gamble moderately;
- any association with, or allusion to, alcoholic drinks, must be avoided.
3. Protection of minors
- the content of advertising and marketing materials promoting gambling must be designed so as not to attract minors by not including elements portraying children or images, symbols, music, characters, cartoons or celebrities which may be attractive to individuals under 18 years of age;
- gambling advertising must not undermine parental authority, and must not be promoted in a manner suggesting a link between gambling and proof of maturity, or portraying gambling as a rite of passage to maturity;
- the presence or image of celebrities – models, actors, renowned athletes, etc – should not be used for gambling advertising;
- symbols, logos, trademarks etc. of gambling operators must not be associated with clothing, toys, games or sporting equipment or any other goods which are (or can be) addressed to minors;
- advertising for gambling should not exploit the credulity or lack of experience or knowledge specific to minors.
4. Health and education
- advertising for gambling should contain at least one note of caution referring to social responsibility;
- no impediment or condition (such as a minimum duration of the game, a minimum amount of money gambled etc.) should be employed that would affect players’ decisions to stop gambling;
- advertising for gambling must not suggest that gambling is a solution to financial problems, or portray gambling as a method of enrichment or a form of financial investment;
- it must not suggest that excessive loss has no negative consequences, or mislead players into believing that continuing to play will increase their chances of winning;
- there must be no suggestion that the player’s abilities or experience may eliminate (or reduce) the "random" element of the game;
- advertising for gambling must not recommend perseverance in gambling, mock abstinence, or suggest that gambling is a more attractive alternative to work and study;
- there must be no suggestion that gambling improves personal abilities or social recognition, or any association made between gambling and the idea of physical attraction or sexual success;
- lastly, advertising for gambling must not promote anti-social behaviour.