BGC announces new online advertising code

Cvetanka Cvetanovska | Published 27 Aug 2020, 2:40 p.m.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has introduced a series of new measures to reduce the number of online betting/gambling ads seen by minors in the UK.

The new measures will require all BGC members to ensure that paid media adverts target consumers aged 25 and over unless the website can prove that ads cannot target minors. The new set of requirements will be part of the "Sixth Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising" which will come into effect from 1st October.

Cutting underage ad exposure

BGC members, (except the National Lottery) will proceed in adopting a new code of conduct as yesterday the ASA published the online betting ads report, where it identifies that age-restricted ads have been shown to children. Alongside junk food and drinking-related ads, gambling advertisers were reported to have displayed the highest number of non-compliant ads to underage audiences. ASA pointed to 70 ad breaches, which is a significantly higher number compared to tobacco and alcohol-related content.

Moreover, the BGC made it clear that the betting and gambling culture has significantly improved on its mandate related to responsible advertising practices. They highlighted the safe gambling action plan and the whistle-to-whistle ban on TV adverts during sports programmes, which noted a 97% drop in betting ads viewed by children on TV.

This May, the BGC announced that it would introduce industry working groups and encourage discussion panels with advertisers and media owners. This strategy aims to ensure the vulnerable audiences are protected from viewing gambling-related content.

Call for improving online advertising requirements

Further guidance will also require operators to ensure that all gambling-related ads listed on search engines make it clear that the content is for 18+ and must feature safe gambling messaging. As for video sharing platforms such as YouTube, betting operators will be allowed to display ads to users who have verified their age, guaranteeing the targeted audience is 18+. The members of BGC will be required to moderate and post frequent responsible gambling messages and campaigns on their social media accounts.

A group formed by the UKGC first agreed on the 25+ age constraint and gating on YouTube. The group recognised a potential to establish a permanent cross-industry Adtech Forum. At the time the Commission said it was satisfied with the group's conclusions, and expected the new models to be in place by July. 

Michael Dugher, the CEO of the BGC, said they are committed to driving up standards and consumer protection within the betting industry. He adds that they've noticed significant progress in recent times and that the Code for Responsible Advertising is updated accordingly to the technology advancements.

BGC will have a zero-tolerance attitude to breaches in the future, and this code shows just how seriously they perceive their responsibilities. Dugher also called on support from the UK Government and online platforms to work with them and help protect minors from gambling-related harm. Social media platforms must recognise their influence and responsibility to protect people online. Further review of the Gambling Act will also provide an opportunity to improve standards and introduce other recommendations according to the latest industry challenges.

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