ASA Asks the Public to Help in Flagging Rogue Gambling AdsApril 15, 2020 John Isaac
Pledging swift action against the perpetrators that breach advertising rules, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has called on the British public to come forward and report gambling ads that refer to the novel corona virus (Covid-19).
The watchdog said that during the pandemic, the conduct of the online gambling industry, that includes the frequency and nature of its advertising was under particular scrutiny. The ASA explained that the lockdown has seen the creation of a captive audience seeing as many people are quite uncertain and anxious about the future and a very significant number face financial hardship.
The ASA was prompted by the UK’s national lockdown to launch a reporting process that will alert the regulator of Covid-19 related claims in ads that are often for healthcare products and issued a warning that gambling was no different.
Ads Targeted By the ASA
Therefore, members of the public are encouraged by the ASA to report any gambling ads that refer to the ongoing pandemic or any other related matters. Also, to be reported are ads that feature themes or claims of particular concern during the current situation, examples are like those that refer to relieving boredom, personal problems or repeated play. In addition, ads that refer to personal problems, and suggest gambling as a form of escapism, or seek to exploit financial concerns, will also be targeted.
The ASA explained that, in ordinary times ads that display this kind of approach are more likely to raise compliance concerns and that the present circumstances heighten this. The ASA is ready and will not hesitate to take firm action against messaging in gambling ads that are irresponsible. To identify issues and offer compliance, the ASA will continue working closely with the British licencing authority.
Furthermore, Covid-19 will not prevent the ASA from continuing efforts to protect children from gambling advertising. Last year’s efforts using avatar technology to assess the ads served to a simulated version of a child’s browsing profile will be repeated in 2020 to ensure operators are complying with all rules.
In conclusion the ASA said that Gambling operators are warned to pay particular attention to their responsibilities to comply with the Advertising Codes. Also, along with their usual enforcement work, they will take swift action against ads that, in the context of the present crisis, are likely to exploit people’s vulnerabilities or encourage irresponsible behaviour.
The ASA’s warning to operators follows industry standards body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) announcing a ten-point plan for members to follow during the pandemic, in a bid to protect players from gambling related harm. This will see responsible gambling messaging ramped up by operators. These, however, have been dismissed by the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, the influential advocates for a regulatory overhaul in Great Britain, as “weak”.
Guidance issued by the European Gaming and Betting Association, and backed by the BGC alongside a number of other country-specific operator bodies, also bans operators from referencing Covid-19 in their advertising.
Operators were also warned to ensure their adverts do not portray gambling as a solution to social, personal or financial problems, nor invite customers to gamble online as a solution to boredom.