New rules being introduced in due course will restrict gambling companies from utilising sports stars and reality TV stars in their advertising campaigns. Designed as a way of protecting those people under the legal gambling age of 18 from accessing such activities, these new restrictions are being introduced by The Committee for Advertising Practice. From October, sports stars and other celebrities will not be eligible to appear in commercials and other advertisements for companies like Paddy Power and others.
Considering that many ads for these brands have featured sports stars like Michael Owen, Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Redknapp before, it will come as quite the dramatic change for gambling brands looking to garner more attention for their platforms. Yet it’s not only about the people promoting the gambling brands. Advertisements cannot contain imagery of specific teams’ football kits or stadiums, while video game content cannot be included, as it may appeal to those under 18 who engage in such activity frequently.
The law follows on from regulations a couple of years back that restricted any celebrities and sports starts under the age of 25 from appearing in betting and gaming ads.
Committee of Advertising Practice Lays Down the Law
Speaking on behalf of The Committee of Advertising Practice, Shahriar Coupal said that “no more top-flight footballers or other high-profile sportspeople”, will be allowed to promote the latest odds at sportsbooks. “No more social media influencers, TV stars or other celebrities popular with children inviting us to bet on red. And no more gambling ads featuring video game images or gameplay familiar to many children’s lives.”
The laws that are in place at current only see an advertisement banned if it is likely to appeal more so to an under-18 than to an adult. The new rules will ban an ad if it likely to have a strong appeal to children or young people, especially in the case of it reflecting or having an association with youth culture. This is regardless of how it may be viewed by adults.
It does seem appropriate to many that the new gambling advertisement laws come into effect in October, which is the month prior to the World Cup kicking off in Qatar – which has been surrounded in its own controversy ever since being awarded the chance to host the tournament. Gambling companies do tend to spend a lot of money on marketing around events like this one, so as to try and attract more people to their sites to place bets on the participating teams.
“This might not seem immediately significant but its effect – particularly in a World Cup year – will be dramatic”, said Coupal. He went on to comment that ending the practices of gambling companies hiring well-known faces to promote their brands, a new era of gambling ads will be introduced that will focus on an adult audience, which is more befitting of the products they provide.
And it’s not only television advertisements that will suffer from the rule change, but radio ads, cinema commercials, and even non-broadcast media including newspapers, billboards and online websites.
Speaking of the decision to introduce the new rules surrounding gambling ads, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that children were still being subjected to 2.2 betting or gambling ads every week. Despite those figures being at their lowest level in over 12 years, the authority believed that stricter regulations were needed. The existing rules also deny anyone under the age of 25 from appearing in ads for gambling companies. Football Index was chastised for its decision to utilise football players under 25 in one of its app ads, with the ad being swiftly banned as well.
Opposition to Gambling Advertisements From Many
The gambling industry in general has experienced heavy opposition from people in various sectors, including politicians, parents and other groups campaigning for awareness surrounding gambling addiction. Yet advertisements for gambling have been a main target for many of these, with former England and Arsenal footballer Paul Merson being one such opposer of them.
Speaking with BBC Sport in March, Merson said that he is sickened when he sees former players and managers from the football world starring in gambling adverts. In 2021, he made a documentary for the BBC regarding his own gambling addiction and the general gambling industry of the United Kingdom. Talking of his own experience, Merson said that adverts can prove to be a “major trigger” for anyone who is vulnerable.
And it’s not just one or two sports stars or celebrities who have accepted the offer to appear in ads for gambling companies. Earlier on in 2022, the Paddy Power platform launched a commercial featuring Jack Wilshere, who has played for Arsenal and West Ham in the past. Meanwhile, Harry Redknapp (the former Tottenham Hotspur manager) has previously appeared in ads for Betvictor. Meanwhile, Coral Racing fans may have seen former Love Island contestant Chris Hughes promote the brand in ads.
The move to block celebrities from appearing in advertisements was welcomed by Lord Don Foster, who serves as the chairman of the Peers for Gambling Reform. Yet he warned that it would not restrict all types of gambling advertising that reaches young people. Talking about the industry, he said that it would not stop gambling ads “appearing on the shirts of children’s sporting heroes”. He continued by saying that the government should make moves to ban any and all sorts of links between sport and gambling altogether. He finished off by saying that there should be a reduction in all forms of gambling advertising, too.
Previously, the government introduced certain restrictions on gambling advertisements, ruling that they should never be shown on television during live sports before the 9pm watershed. This, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) said, managed to reduce the number of ads that young people have seen on television by 97%.
“The BGC take a zero-tolerance approach to gambling by those under the age of 18 and we enforce the toughest possible action”, said Michael Dugher, who serves as the chief executive for the BGC.
It was back in 2019 that the Conservative party noted in its election manifesto that it promised to overhaul the UK’s gambling laws. This came about following growing concerns over the impact that gambling is having on the UK, especially concerning young people. Various delays have been experienced relating to the white paper regarding these changes. This is now due to be published in May.