Advertising regulators set to crackdown on young celebs in gambling ads

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Rules around gambling ads, which include a ban on the use of young celebrities and sports stars, are set to become stricter, especially online.

From 1 April, gambling operators will also have to ensure that the majority of the audience of any social media influencers they work with are over 18.

The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) said it was designed to protect children from irresponsible ads.

A recent UK study suggested 450,000 11 to 16-year-olds regularly gamble.

The new standards also ban the use of animated and licensed characters from film and television, as well as celebrities who “appear to be” under the age of 25.

CAP says care must be taken that gambling ads do not appear in the children’s section of websites – such as the young supporters’ pages of a football club.

The Advertising Standards Authority will enforce the rules, although it does not have the power to issue fines.

The new standards follow a review conducted by CAP of the evidence of the impact of advertising on children, which was last carried out five years ago.

The review included the results of previous complaints to the ASA on adverts deemed to be appealing to children. This included:

  • Bookmaker Coral’s “Lucky Wizard” game, which featured an animated wizard
  • William Hill promotion which appeared within a Mario Kart app
  • Gambling website featuring animated fairy story characters Hansel and Gretel and Red Riding Hood

In all cases, the ASA ruled that the ads should not appear again as they were.

Dr Mark Griffiths, professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University, said that overall the gambling industry is not keen to court young customers.

“The younger people start [gambling], the more likely they are to develop a problem – you want to be in a position where they are starting in their adult lives,” he said.

“For most of the industry now, no one would say they want custom from people below the age of 18.”

Andy Taylor, regulatory policy executive at CAP, told the BBC there were not a huge number of young stars featuring in gambling ads.

“The industry is well used to the fact that there is a cut-off point, they shouldn’t be using individuals who maybe have that youth appeal, the professional footballer who’s just burst onto the scene,” he said.

“I think we don’t see a massive amount of it, however where we do, we take action.”

Mr Taylor added that the standards were specifically intended to enforce rules in the online space.

“What we want to see is the rules which have applied for a considerable period of time in traditional media, being applied in the online space effectively,” he said.

“That means not targeting advertising at children and young people… and ensuring that the contents of those ads doesn’t feature material that appeals particularly to them.”