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What does gambling law require?

Under the Gambling Act 2005, gambling operators selling into the British market must have a Gambling Commission licence to transact with, and advertise to, British consumers. The Commission’s Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP, April 2020) require gambling operators to comply with the Advertising Codes, administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The Codes are designed to ensure that gambling adverts do not:

  • portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm
  • exploit the susceptibilities, aspirations, credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of children, young persons or other vulnerable persons
  • suggest that gambling can be a solution to financial concerns
  • link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness
  • be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture
  • feature anyone gambling or playing a significant role in an advert if they are under 25 years old (or appear to be under 25)

Adverts that breach the Codes have to be amended or withdrawn. If serious or repeated breaches occur, the ASA can refer advertisers to the Gambling Commission and broadcasters to Ofcom.

The ASA has warned gambling operators about their responsibilities under the Codes during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Concerns about advertising

Gambling advertising has increased substantially since the 2005 Act came into force. This has led to concerns about its impact on children, young people, and vulnerable adults. The relationship between gambling and sport has come under particular scrutiny.

In March 2020, Nigel Huddleston (DCMS Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage) said that the remit of a forthcoming review of the Gambling Act had not yet been scoped but that the Government would “listen very carefully to what elements should be considered”.

What is the gambling industry doing?

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) represents around 90% of the UK’s betting and gaming industry (excluding lotteries). Its Code of Conduct requires, among other things, that members must adhere to an Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising. The industry has taken a number of voluntary measures on gambling advertising, including a whistle-to-whistle ban on adverts during live sport.

In April 2020, the BGC announced that its members would voluntarily remove television and radio adverts for online slot, casino and bingo products during the Covid-19 lockdown. Existing advertising slots have been replaced by safer gambling messages, donated to charities, or removed from broadcast.

 


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