The Betting and Gaming Council has announced changes to the Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising. This updated code will apply from 1 October 2020.

Licensed gambling operators must comply with this Code, but those advertising gambling run by others also need to know about the Code and these changes. The contracts between the gambling operators and their advertisers must require the advertisers to behave as if they too were subject to the Code, and the gambling operators are expected to terminate their contracts with any advertisers who fail to comply – ideally on a “one strike and you’re out” basis.

The new requirements focus on:

  • better protecting children and other vulnerable consumers – a key regulatory and industry concern, particularly at the moment; and
  • advertising via social media – reflecting both the increasing importance of this channel and its particular appeal to a younger audience.

Sponsored/paid for social media ads must be targeted only at consumers aged 25+ unless the operator has its own data about the targeted consumers. There is an incentive for developing and using good ID technology, because if a social media platform can prove its age-gating can prevent under 18s from accessing gambling advertising, then the filter may be reduced to 18+.

Search ads must contain clear 18+ messages (16+ for lotteries) in the ad copy, along with safer gambling messages. A black list of negative key words, indicating children or other vulnerability, is to be collated, regularly updated, and incorporated into all ad campaigns.

All affiliate ads must be clearly and prominently identified as such with #ad.

Operators and their affiliate advertisers must use reasonable endeavours to exclude from their paid-for social media campaigns any consumers who have self-excluded or have been identified as at higher risk.

Operators must also share safer gambling content on a regular basis on their social media pages, provide easily accessible information on how to limit exposure to gambling advertising on social media platforms, and ensure their organic YouTube content is age-restricted to 18+ (16+ for lotteries). Affiliates must also share safer gambling content on a regular basis.

The old “best endeavours” to ensure compliance by affiliate marketers has been beefed up with more robust controls. Affiliates must now expect to be subject to due diligence and checks, and to have their contracts terminated if they fail to comply.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, said: “... the Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising is updated as technology evolves. ... we urge the Government to work with us to crack down on black market operators who have no interest in safer gambling or protecting their customers ...”.