Last week, the Advertising Standards Authority released a report which showed that UK children are now exposed to fewer gambling adverts than they were ten years ago.
This comes after a long battle between the ASA, the UKGC and the nation's biggest casino and sportsbook brands.
Occupying prime-time TV advertising spots has always been a matter of contention between the gambling regulatory bodies and the biggest gambling brands.
On one hand, we must protect the vulnerable from problem gambling, whilst on the other, the brands need to advertise in order to survive.
However, we think that everyone can agree on the fact that the fewer gambling adverts underage children see, the better.
The ASA Report: Key Findings
The ASA report, which was published on the 1st February 2019, focused on children's exposure to age-restricted TV adverts overall. In addition to gambling, therefore, the report covered children's exposure to alcohol adverts, as well as adverts for food and drink products which are high in sugar, fat and salt.
The report uses data which was collected between 2008 and 2017. Below you can see the report's key findings in relation to gambling adverts:
📉 Children's exposure to all TV adverts reduced by 29.7% from 2013 to 2017
📉 Between 2008 and 2017, children's exposure to gambling adverts increased by 25%, from an average of 2.2 adverts per week (in the first full year gambling adverts were allowed on TV) to 2.8 adverts per week in 2017
📉 In 2013, exposure peaked at an average of 4.4 gambling adverts per week, and so it decreased by 37.3% by 2017
📉 Bingo, lottery and scratchcard adverts are now the most seen by children
📉 The number of sports betting adverts viewed by children has decreased from one advert in 2011, to 0.4 adverts in 2017
Overall, the report's findings are generally positive. Children are now exposed to fewer gambling adverts than before.
However, it also shows a downward trend in TV viewing among children. Therefore it is hard to assess whether or not the figures simply suggest that children's reduced exposure to these TV adverts in recent years is due to changes in TV viewing in general, or due to the fact that casino operators and sportsbook brands are becoming more socially responsible.
It is important to note that, whilst there are advertising regulations and restrictions in place currently, scheduling rules have not changed in the years covered by the report.
Speaking about the report, Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, said:
Protecting children has always been at the heart of our regulation. These findings show that in recent years, children's exposure to TV ads for alcohol, gambling and foot and soft drink products high in fat, salt or sugar is declining. We are not complacent though and we'll continue to actively monitor and report on this important area of work. Our next focus will be to examine whether the rules are working in the same way online and we'll report on that later in 2019.
Are Gambling Ads Simply Moving Online?
As Guy Parker suggested, the report needs to go further to assess whether or not children are being exposed to gambling (and other age-restricted) adverts online. It seems very likely as, according to a report by GambleAware in November 2018, operators are now dedicating around 80% of their marketing budgets to online advertising.
The study by GambleAware found that gambling brands have actually increased their marketing spend by 56% since 2014, yet TV advertising now counts for only 15% of their budgets.
This fact would account for both children and adults seeing fewer adverts for gambling on TV, but it could mean that children are seeing more adverts in total.
What Are the Gambling Advertising Rules?
Gambling adverts, in the UK, are heavily regulated to protect the most vulnerable in our society. This means there are various different rules and policies which operators must adhere to if they want to advertise in a lawful manner.
Below we've listed some of the main rules in regards to gambling advertising in the UK:
🚫 Gambling marketers should not exploit the young or vulnerable, nor imply that gambling can solve financial or personal problems, is indispensable, a rite of passage or linked with sexual success.
🚫 Adverts should not ever appeal to young people in particular (i.e include familiar cartoon characters or teen slang)
🚫 Advertisers should avoid names and elements which are familiar to children (fairytale names, toy characters)
🚫 No one who is, or seems to be, under 25 may be featured in a gambling advert
🚫 Adverts must include responsible gambling messages
How to Keep Your Children Safe
If you are concerned that your child may be being exposed to gambling adverts (both online and offline), then there are a few safety measures you can take:
✔️ Install a child-lock on your computer and a safeguarding program for your web browser
✔️ Put the computer/tablet in a public place, where you can see which sites they are visiting
✔️ Always log-out of any casinos you visit online, and any email accounts which may have casino marketing emails in their inbox
✔️ Implement restrictions on social media sites such as Facebook and Youtube