The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) recently announced an update to its responsible advertising code, as part of a continued crackdown on underage betting. These new measures, designed to protect under-18s from seeing betting adverts in digital media, will come into effect from 1st December 2023.
The BGC is the UK's main gambling industry lobby group. It publishes the Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising (IGRG code), which is a voluntary code designed to maintain a benchmark towards commitment to socially responsible advertising. The newly announced changes follow the recommendations made in the Gambling White Paper which focus on closing down the access to betting and gaming content by under-18s in the digital sphere, as well as increased messaging on safer gambling. To ensure input from across the industry, the BGC has worked alongside BACTA, the Bingo Association and the Lotteries Council.
The primary change to the new, seventh version of the IGRG code is the extended targeting obligations. Whilst the sixth edition of the code required all sponsored or paid-for social media betting and gaming marketing content to be targeted at those 25 or above, the new edition extends this requirement to all digital media platforms which provide "an appropriate age filter". According to the BGC, Facebook and Snapchat can be used to target users 18 and above rather than those 25 and above because they were able to provide evidence of the accuracy of their targeting.
Secondly, drawing further guidance from the White Paper, the updated IGRG code obliges advertisers to devote 20% of all digital media advertising to safer gambling messages. This is a change from previous versions, which only placed such obligation for advertisements on TV and radio.
Although compliance with the code is voluntary, compliance is considered by the Gambling Commission in its Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice, Ordinary Code, when deciding whether or not to pursue enforcement action. Exposure of gambling and gaming advertising to children is very high on the regulators' radar, particularly given the rise in social media and in-app gambling. Gambling brands, advertisers and influencers must pay particular attention to ensure that the ads are not targeted to under-25s (unless an ad has an appropriate age filter), but to also comply with the rules in the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing which explicitly directs that advertisements for lotteries must not feature anyone who is, or seems to be under 25. Lack of knowledge is not a defence, and the recent ruling featuring the image of a 24-year-old footballer Mason Mount indicates the strict approach applied by various regulators.
“As the standards body for the regulated sector, we are committed to continuing to drive up standards and make big changes across the betting and gaming industry. Helping protect young people is our number one priority.