Gambling

Written evidence submitted by the Advertising Standards Authority (GA 66)

1. Introduction and overview

1.1. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) welcomes the opportunity to provide evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport inquiry into gambling, and in particular the implementation and operation of the Gambling Act 2005.

1.2. The ASA ’s role is to ensure that all advertisements, wherever they appear, are legal, decent, honest and truthful. Gambling advertising is subject to the provisions of the UK Advertising Codes.

1.3. This response provides:

· A summary of the UK advertising self-regulatory system (‘the system’) . More detailed information can be found on our website www.asa.org.uk.

· An explanation of the ASA’s regulation of gambling advertising .

2. Advertising Self-Regulation in the UK

2.1. The ASA is the UK self-regulatory body for maintaining standards in advertising. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) are the industry bodies responsible for writing and maintaining the Advertising Codes. The ASA administers these rules on behalf of business and consumers [1] .

2.2. The ASA deals with more than 25,000 complaints per year.

2.3. The Advertising Codes reflect the standards required by law. In addition, the aspects of the Codes covering harm, offence and social responsibility protect consumers from issues not covered by the legal system.

2.4. In the event that the ASA upholds a complaint against an advertisement, the advertiser or broadcaster is required to amend, withdraw or schedule the advertisement appropriately.

2.5. The ASA is committed to upholding high standards in advertising. The system takes a 360° approach to regulation, which includes pro-active monitoring, comprehensibly enforced rules and training and advice for advertisers to help them comply with the Codes.

3. Regulating gambling advertising

3.1. Following the introduction of The Gambling Act 2005 (the Act) in September 2007, gambling operators based in countries on the White List, in the EEA or holding a Gambling Commission licence have been legally permitted to advertise in the UK.

3.2. To ensure that consumers were protected following the implementation of the Act, and recognising the social imperative of ensuring that gambling advertising is responsible, CAP and BCAP introduced robust new rules on gambling advertisements on 1 September 2007.

3.3. These new rules were developed following a public consultation by CAP and BCAP and sit on top of the general Code provisions that all ads must not mislead, harm or offend.

3.4. The emphasis of the gambling rules is to ensure that ads are socially responsible and don’t encourage gambling in ways that harm or exploit children, young people or vulnerable adults. On September 1 2010 new, revised Codes were introduced. Other than in their presentation, the gambling rules for broadcast and non-broadcast advertising remain unchanged.

3.5. Advertisements must not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible, suggest that gambling can be a solution to financial concerns, link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness or be of particular appeal to children.

3.6. The full gambling rules are attached at Annex A.

3.7. The rules are administered by the ASA , with Ofcom and the Gambling Commission acting as legal backstops. A ll gambling operators must abide by the Gambling Commission’s Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) under the Gambling Act. The Commission’s LCCP [2] makes clear that licensed gambling operators should comply with the CAP and BCAP Codes. If serious or recurring breaches of the advertising rules are committed by licensed gambling operators, the ASA will refer them to the Gambling Commission who can take backstop action. The Commission continues to work closely with the ASA to ensure effective regulation.

3.8. The gambling industry has developed its own Code for Socially Responsible Advertising [3] , designed to supplement the CAP/BCAP Codes it covers matters that extend beyond the remit of the ASA, such as sport sponsorship. The Code also includes a commitment not to air gambling ads before the 9.00 pm watershed. Advertisements for sports betting around televised sporting events are exempted from this commitment.

3.9. In March 2011 the ASA extended its remit to cover marketing communications on companies’ own websites and in other, non-paid-for space under their control, including Facebook and Twitter. This means that the CAP Code rules on gambling advertising, and the added protections these rules bring to consumers, now apply directly to all advertising on UK based gambling websites and advertiser controlled social media.

3.10. Should the ASA receive complaints about marketing communications on gambling websites of companies registered overseas we will refer the complainants to the relevant national regulatory authority.  The ASA is a member of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA), a body that promotes responsible advertising self-regulation across the Single Market for the benefit of consumers and business. EASA operates a cross-border complaints system, whereby all EASA member organisations agree to handle cross-border complaints under the same conditions as national complaints. The system is widely used.

3.11. If the ASA receives a complaint about a marketing communication on an overseas website that seems to target UK consumers, but is not subject to regulation by one of our international or EASA partners, we will take what action we can to achieve consumer redress.

4. Complaints

4.1. The number of complaints about gambling product ads received by the ASA since the introduction of the Gambling Act has been slowly decreasing.

4.2. In 2008 the ASA received 262 complaints about gambling ads, in 2009 it received 211 and in 2010 it received 210. To put these numbers into context, in 2010 the ASA received 25,562 complaints about approximately 13,000 discrete ads. Given the apparent increase in the volume of gambling ads since the introduction of the Gambling Act, these numbers suggest that advertisers are aware of the gambling rules and working hard to ensure compliance with those rules.

4.3. Nonetheless, the ASA has not hesitated to take action against problematic ads, either those we have received a complaint about or those we have picked up in our own monitoring. In 2010, the ASA upheld complaints about approximately three dozen gambling ads, which were required to be amended or removed. All ASA rulings and compliance surveys can be found on our website.

5. Monitoring and Compliance

5.1. The ASA does not just wait for complaints to come in, but pro-actively monitors ads on a daily basis across all media for compliance with the Codes. It concentrates its activities on high-profile sectors (such as gambling) or sectors with low compliance.

5.2. The 2010 Gambling Compliance Survey [4] found that of the 796 ads which were assessed, 96.1% of ads were considered compliant with the Advertising Codes. This result is 2.9% down on the findings of the 2007 Gambling Survey, which recorded a compliance rate of 99%. It is worth noting, however, that 25 of the 31 ads considered in breach in the 2010 survey were near identical and were placed by only two companies. The majority of them offered "free bets" but did not include significant terms and conditions. Encouragingly, and unlike 2007, no broadcast ads were found to have been problematic.

5.3. Subsequently, in 2010 the ASA undertook a significant amount of work to tackle misleading ads for ‘free bets’, and to ensure promotions are advertised fairly. Our work has meant that significant terms and conditions have to be stated prominently and, in online ads, that terms and conditions should be no more than ‘one click’ away.

5.4. The ASA Compliance department continues to monitor gambling ads across all media to ensure high levels of compliance with the Codes are maintained.

5.5. For those advertisers who refuse to comply with an adjudication, sanctions can be brought to bear. For example, Ad Alerts can be circulated to the media advising them not to publish non-compliant advertising, poster pre-vetting can be imposed and direct marketing companies can have benefits such as Royal Mail bulk-mailing discounts removed.

5.6. To date no gambling advertiser has had to be referred to the Gambling Commission or Ofcom for regulatory action following non-compliance. Complaints have been able to be resolved via the self-regulatory system.

6. Advice and Guidance

6.1. Helping advertisers to maintain high compliance with the gambling rules is an ongoing commitment of both the ASA and the Code writing body, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP).

6.2. CAP Services, which includes bespoke advice, online tools, advice newsletters and training seminars, is designed to raise awareness of the advertising rules and to help prevent breaches from occurring in the first place.

7. Conclusion

7.1. The ASA is the UK self-regulatory system for ensuring that all ads, wherever they appear, are legal, decent, honest and truthful. If a complaint is received, the marketing material will be assessed against the codes and where there is a breach the material will be amended or withdrawn.

7.2. Since the introduction of the Gambling Act in 2007 the ASA has administered new, robust gambling rules in the Advertising Codes designed to protect consumers and ensure that gambling products are advertised responsibly.

7.3. The ASA is confident that the self-regulatory system has been effective in this task. The ASA will continue to pro-actively monitor the sector for any issues that might arise, and will continue to take action, where necessary, to tackle problem ads. Concurrently, CAP will continue to provide extensive advice and training for advertisers to help the sector maintain high levels of compliance.

7.4. I do hope that you find the comments contained within this response useful. If the Committee has any questions about this response, then please do not hesitate to contact me.

July 2011

Annex A – Gambling Advertising Rules

The Advertising Codes contain wide-ranging rules designed to ensure that advertising does not mislead, harm or offend.

In addition, the Advertising Codes contain specific rules for certain products and marketing techniques. The sector specific rules for gambling are detailed below.

The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code)

Section 16 - Gambling

Principle

The rules in this section are designed to ensure that marketing communications for gambling products are socially responsible, with particular regard to the need to protect children, young persons under 18 and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by advertising that features or promotes gambling.

Background

The term "gambling" means gaming and betting, as defined in the Gambling Act 2005, and spread betting. For rules on lottery marketing communications, see Section 17.

The Gambling Act 2005 does not apply outside Great Britain. Specialist legal advice should be sought when considering advertising any gambling product in Northern Ireland or the Channel Islands.

Spread betting may be advertised as an investment under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Financial Promotion) Order 2005 (as amended) and other FSA rules and guidance (see Background, Section 14, Financial Products). A "spread bet" is a contract for difference that is a gaming contract, as defined in the glossary to the FSA Handbook.

The rules in this section apply to marketing communications for "play for money" gambling products and marketing communications for "play for free" gambling products that offer the chance to win a prize or explicitly or implicitly direct the consumer to a "play for money" gambling product, whether on-shore or off-shore.

These rules are not intended to inhibit marketing communications to counter problem gambling that are responsible and unlikely to promote a brand or type of gambling.

 

Unless they portray or refer to gambling, this section does not apply to marketing communications for non-gambling leisure events or facilities, for example, hotels, cinemas, bowling alleys or ice rinks, that are in the same complex as, but separate from, gambling events or facilities.

For the purposes of this section, "children" are people of 15 and under and "young persons" are people of 16 or 17

Rules

16.1 Marketing communications for gambling must be socially responsible, with particular regard to the need to protect children, young persons and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited.

16.2 In line with rule 1.2, the spirit as well as the letter of the rules in this section apply whether or not a gambling product is shown or referred to.

16.3 Marketing communications must not:

16.3.1 portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm

16.3.2 exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of children, young persons or other vulnerable persons

16.3.3 suggest that gambling can provide an escape from personal, professional or educational problems such as loneliness or depression

16.3.4 suggest that gambling can be a solution to financial concerns, an alternative to employment or a way to achieve financial security

16.3.5 portray gambling as indispensable or as taking priority in life; for example, over family, friends or professional or educational commitments

16.3.6 suggest that gambling can enhance personal qualities, for example, that it can improve self-image or self-esteem, or is a way to gain control, superiority, recognition or admiration

16.3.7 suggest peer pressure to gamble nor disparage abstention

16.3.8 link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness

16.3.9 portray gambling in a context of toughness or link it to resilience or recklessness

16.3.10 suggest gambling is a rite of passage

16.3.11 suggest that solitary gambling is preferable to social gambling

16.3.12 be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture

16.3.13 be directed at those aged below 18 years (or 16 years for football pools, equal-chance gaming [under a prize gaming permit or at a licensed family entertainment centre], prize gaming (at a non-licensed family entertainment centre or at a travelling fair) or Category D gaming machines) through the selection of media or context in which they appear

16.3.14 include a child or a young person. No-one who is, or seems to be, under 25 years old may be featured gambling or playing a significant role. No-one may behave in an adolescent, juvenile or loutish way

16.3.15 exploit cultural beliefs or traditions about gambling or luck

16.3.16 condone or encourage criminal or anti-social behaviour

16.3.17 condone or feature gambling in a working environment. An exception exists for licensed gambling premises.

16.4 Marketing communications for family entertainment centres, travelling fairs, horse racecourses and dog race tracks, and for non-gambling leisure facilities that incidentally refer to separate gambling facilities, for example, as part of a list of facilities on a cruise ship, may include children or young persons provided they are accompanied by an adult and are socialising responsibly in areas that the Gambling Act 2005 does not restrict by age.

16.5 Marketing communications for events or facilities that can be accessed only by entering gambling premises must make that condition clear

The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code)

Section 17 – Gambling

Rules

17.1 Radio Central Copy Clearance – Radio broadcasters must ensure that advertisements for gambling are centrally cleared.

17.2 Advertisements for events or facilities that can be accessed only by entering gambling premises must make that condition clear

Rules for all advertisements

17.3 Advertisements must not:

17.3.1 portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm

17.3.2 suggest that gambling can provide an escape from personal, professional or educational problems such as loneliness or depression

17.3.3 suggest that gambling can be a solution to financial concerns, an alternative to employment or a way to achieve financial security

17.3.4 portray gambling as indispensable or as taking priority in life; for example, over family, friends or professional or educational commitments

17.3.5 suggest peer pressure to gamble or disparage abstention

17.3.6 suggest that gambling can enhance personal qualities; for example, that it can improve self-image or self-esteem, or is a way to gain control, superiority, recognition or admiration

17.3.7 link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness

17.3.8 portray gambling in a context of toughness or link it to resilience or recklessness

17.3.9 suggest gambling is a rite of passage

17.3.10 suggest that solitary gambling is preferable to social gambling.

Rules for gambling advertisements

17.4 Advertisements for gambling must not:

17.4.1 exploit cultural beliefs or traditions about gambling or luck

17.4.2 condone or encourage criminal or anti-social behaviour

17.4.3 condone or feature gambling in a working environment (an exception exists for licensed gambling premises)

17.4.4 exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of under-18s or other vulnerable persons

17.4.5 be likely to be of particular appeal to under-18s, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture

17.4.6 feature anyone who is, or seems to be, under 25 years old gambling or playing a significant role. No-one may behave in an adolescent, juvenile or loutish way.

17.5 Advertisements for family entertainment centres, travelling fairs, horse racecourses and dog racetracks, and for non-gambling leisure facilities that incidentally refer to separate gambling facilities as part of a list of facilities on, for example, a cruise ship, may include under-18s provided they are accompanied by an adult and are socialising responsibly in areas that the Gambling Act 2005 does not restrict by age.


[1] The CAP & BCAP Codes can be found at: http://www.cap.org.uk/cap/codes/, those Codes describe the remit in full.

[2] http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/pdf/Licence%20conditions%20and%20codes%20of%20practice%20-%20consolidated%20March%202011.pdf

[3] http://www.rga.eu.com/data/files/code_on_sr_in_advertising__aug_07.pdf

[3]

[4] http://www.asa.org.uk/Resource-Centre/Reports-and-surveys.aspx

[4]

Prepared 1st August 2011