The UK’s advertising watchdog is examining complaints about World Cup ads by Bet365, William Hill and Coral that potentially broke new rules designed to crack down on problem gambling.
The Advertising Standards Authority received 115 complaints from viewers about TV gambling ads during the four weeks of the 2018 World Cup. This is four times the number of complaints the watchdog received in the month before the World Cup.
The majority of the complaints that the ASA received relate to the number of gambling ads that appeared. Guardian research earlier this week found that World Cup viewers in the UK were exposed to almost 90 minutes of betting ads during the tournament.
Complainants also felt the gambling companies were “irresponsible” for running ads in World Cup games when large numbers of children could be watching, as this could encourage them to start gambling.
There were also some complaints about gambling ads running in breaks during games that offered improved odds for a short period, such as encouraging viewers to act quickly on special “bet now” offers.
“The reference to the time sensitivity of odds may be interpreted as a call to act,” said a spokesman for the ASA. “The promotion of these odds in this format draws strong similarities with the message to ‘bet in play, now!’, which is discouraged in guidance on gambling advertising [relating to] responsibility and problem gambling.”
The ASA is assessing the complaints to see if there are grounds to launch a formal investigation into whether the gambling companies’ tactics are in breach of the UK advertising code.
The advertising watchdog does not regulate the amount of ads that appear and World Cup games do not fall under rules that ban gambling companies from targeting children through programmes that are “principally directed or likely to appeal particularly to them”.
The ASA’s focus will be on whether the betting ads that featured live odds being promoted break new rules introduced in February to tackle the issue of problem gambling.
The watchdog says that promoting live odds “in-play”, as it is called when they appear during matches, is not prohibited. Ads that break the rules will be those deemed to “create an inappropriate sense of urgency” to make a bet.
“The majority of the complaints we have received during the World Cup are about the amount/volume of gambling ads that appear as well as concerns that betting and gaming ads should not be scheduled around programmes when children are watching,” said a spokesman for the ASA. “Viewers find this irresponsible and inappropriate. There are other complaints about misleading terms and conditions.”
In the UK, gambling companies are only permitted to advertise before the 9pm watershed if they do so during live sporting events. Earlier this year, Australia banned gambling adverts from running during daytime live sports on TV.
“Under the current scheduling rules, gambling ads cannot appear on dedicated children’s channels or in and around programmes principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to them,” said the ASA spokesman. “World Cup games do not fall under that definition.”
Marc Etches, chief executive of GambleAware, has expressed concern that the ongoing association of betting ads in live sports could lead to gambling becoming “normalised” for younger viewers.
“The concern is that this is an adult activity and young people are growing up with it being normalised,” he told the Guardian. “It seems to have gone too far. And for young people growing up there just seems to be a stronger and stronger affiliation between the two [gambling and sport] and I’m wary of that.”
Source: The Guardian