We await the UK government’s White Paper on gambling, which is due imminently, but in the meantime, the ASA and the European Gaming and Betting Association have been busy and published an guidance note and a Code of Conduct respectively.
The ASA has published a guidance note on its remit for content marketing as it relates to gambling. Last year it published a note about its remit over marketing communications appearing on websites, apps and cross-border platforms (for example, social media and retail platforms). It says that the global and fast-evolving nature of the internet raises issues about the extent to which the ASA’s remit covers gambling provider communications in social media content marketing (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.
It says that the ASA and the Gambling Commission have a common understanding that all social media content published by licensed gambling operators must comply with the standards and protections set out in the CAP Code.
Gambling social media accounts sometimes include editorial-style content, like commentary or opinions on recent events, or more abstract humour, such as ‘memes’ and other irreverent takes on current sporting news.
Advertising in social media spaces controlled by marketers are subject to the CAP Code including the dedicated rules that protect under-18s. The ASA deems the vast majority of content marketing to be selling something and therefore says it is regulated under the CAP Code, the gambling provisions of which will become stricter from October.
However, the ASA points out that there is potential for some social media content to fall outside the ASA’s enforcement remit because it is not directly connected with the supply of the gambling product. This is likely to be where there are no direct, or significant indirect references, to gambling products. As a result of this, the ASA and the Gambling Commission have agreed that:
The ASA will continue to consider complaints about social media ads brought to its attention on a case-by-case basis in line with its existing approach to remit decisions.
If complaints about operators’ social media are deemed not to be within remit, the ASA will refer them to the Gambling Commission.
The Commission will consider its Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice which set out the rules for operators licensed to transact with consumers in Great Britain and will consider taking action in line with its Statement of Licensing, Compliance and Enforcement policy.
The ASA says its message is straight-forward – all consumer-facing social media activity must comply with the rules in the gambling section of the CAP Code.
European Gaming and Betting Association code of practice
Separately to this, the European Gaming and Betting Association have published a Code of Conduct for the EEA and the UK. Its aim “is to enhance consumer and minor protection through the promotion of responsible advertising measures for online gambling. The Code reflects the industry’s responsibility for ensuring that gambling is a safe and responsible entertainment pastime”. It is set against the context of the updated Audio-Visual Services Directive. The Code includes social responsibility measures and best practices for online gambling advertising including rules for content moderation, specific measures on minor protection, sponsorship, responsible gambling messaging and campaigns, and gambling advertising measures for social media.
Online gambling operators should seek to ensure that when they work with influencers, brand ambassadors, streamers, podcasts, they comply with the requirements of the Code irrespectively of whether the gambling operator is itself the creator and sender of advertising.