UK Advertising Code Extends Online

September 4, 2023
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UK gambling companies advertising online will devote more airtime to responsible gambling messaging, following new additions to the industry advertising code announced on Monday.
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UK gambling companies advertising online will devote more airtime to responsible gambling messaging, following new additions to the industry advertising code announced on Monday (September 4).

All operators in the UK will be required to dedicate at least 20 percent of their digital advertising spend to responsible gambling messaging, following the publication of the Seventh Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising, also know as the IGRG code.

The code is rubberstamped by the Gambling Commission, which instructs licence holders to follow it as part of its compliance guidance.

The requirement that at least 20 percent of ads are devoted to safer gambling messaging is already in effect for TV and radio. The updated code extends the requirement online, to fields such as social media.

Other upcoming changes to the code include an update to the existing condition that all sponsored or paid-for social media ads must be targeted at consumers aged 25 and over, unless the website can prove it can safely target marketing at over-18s only.

That rule will now be extended to all digital media once the new code comes into effect on December 1, said the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which administers the code.

The BGC said it agreed the new additions alongside fellow trade groups Bacta and the Bingo Association, to solidify cross-sector buy-in from the majority of the UK gambling industry.

Earlier this year, the BGC urged social media companies including X, formerly known as Twitter, to offer more features to protect vulnerable users from seeing gambling advertising.

In a letter to government, the trade group complained that social media companies had not engaged with their efforts since initial cooperation took place in 2020.

“I would urge you to help on this matter by calling on social media platforms to finally cooperate with the BGC and make the relevant functionality available, so we can help protect the most vulnerable,” said Michael Dugher, the group’s chief executive.

On Monday, the BGC said that digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) minister Stuart Andrew had agreed to call a meeting “to help drive change”.

“BGC Members have already taken significant steps to ensure adverts by our members only reach the right audiences. With more help from the platforms, we can do even more,” said Dugher.

”The new edition of the IGRG Code is further evidence of our determination to continue to ensure that standards are rising and are as high as they can possibly be,” he said.

Meanwhile, several BGC members have fallen foul of the Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA) new AI-powered drive to detect potentially non-compliant advertisements.

Almost all of the recent cases centre around the use of sports people and whether they would likely to have appeal to young people, something that is prohibited by UK ad rules.

Companies have been censured for the use of active sports people, but in some cases have been cleared by the ASA, particularly in cases involving retired footballers.

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