The Gambling Act 2005 came fully into effect on 1 September 2007. Under section 16 of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code, marketers should not exploit the young or vulnerable nor imply gambling can solve financial or personal problems or is indispensable, a rite of passage or linked with sexual success. All gambling ads must comply with the Code and the law. The Gambling Act does not apply outside Great Britain. Specialist legal advice should be sought when considering advertising any gambling products in Northern Ireland or the Channel Islands.
The Gambling (Licensing and advertising) Act 2014 will take effect on the 1st November 2014. It contains provisions relating to the licensing of gambling operators advertising or offering remote gambling facilities to consumers in the UK. CAP urge you to seek legal advice regarding the requirements of the act if you are unsure.
Ads for gambling products should not 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. In addition, ads should not portray gambling in a context of toughness or link it to resilience or recklessness.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) considered an ad, for Pokerstars.com, that was headlined “PLAY MIND GAMES” and featured a picture of World Poker Champion and Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu, who was featured holding a hockey stick. Text next to the picture stated “POKER IS A SPORT OF COURAGE, CONVICTION AND CONFIDENCE.” The ASA accepted that the words courage, conviction and confidence did not suggest physical power or machismo but considered that they were attributes associated with mental toughness or resilience and would therefore be seen as admirable qualities by the target audience of 21 to 44 year-old men. The ASA also considered that the claim implied not only that those qualities were needed to play poker but also that success at poker would enhance those qualities (Rational Entertainment Enterprises Ltd t/a Pokerstars.com, 24 September 2008).
In another adjudication, the ASA ruled that a Paddy Power ad implied that gambling could improve self-image or self-esteem and was a way to gain recognition or admiration. The ad was headlined “WHO SAYS YOU CANT MAKE MONEY BEING SHORT” and pictured a short man seated in a limousine and flanked by two scantily clad, attractive women while enjoying a cigar and drinking champagne. The ASA considered that stretch limousines, champagne, cigars and beautiful women were stereo-typical metaphors for men’s success and invited readers to admire the success of the man portrayed in the ad. The ASA also considered that the man’s self-image or self-esteem, which could have been hampered by his stature, had been transformed by his financial success. The ASA concluded that the ad suggested the man’s “shortcoming” had been overcome by the wealth he had acquired through gambling and implied gambling was a way to improve self-esteem or gain recognition or admiration (Paddy Power plc, 23 April 2008).
A complaint was received about a TV ad that featured a man walking down a road, whilst other people fell into step behind him to form an entourage. The man then showed a casino chip to gain entry to an exclusive club, then shared a meaningful look with a woman that seemed to imply mutual attraction. The ASA considered that references to fame, being special and VIP status in the soundtrack, the apparent admiration of other individuals in the ad and the apparent attraction the woman felt towards the man meant the ad linked gambling with recognition, admiration and enhanced attractiveness and was therefore problematic (Netplay TV Group Ltd t/a Supercasino.com, May 2012). Although the ad was shown on television it would have been problematic in non-broadcast mediums for the same reasons.
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s Advice Online entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
Related: Betting and gaming: General
How can we help!
We are aware that sometimes whether something is of particular appeal to under-18s can be nuanced – therefore, marketers are welcome to get a view from our Copy Advice team which provides pre-publication advice on advertising at any stage.