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Crackdown on gambling ads delayed

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By Chris Sutcliffe | Senior reporter

July 15, 2022 | 5 min read

A government white paper designed to amend gambling advertising regulation in the UK has been delayed due to the Conservative leadership reshuffle.

UK gambling advertising is facing changes from the government's white paper - which has been delayed again

Gambling advertising in the UK is heavily regulated – but could become more so following the publication of the white paper / Krissia Cruz

The white paper was set to take a wide-ranging look at all aspects of gambling in the UK, including how it is advertised. It was originally set to arrive in 2021 but was hit by delays, leading to a promised publication date of next week (July 18).

However, it will not land until after the Conservative leadership contest has been resolved later in the year.

Some of the potential measures involved include banning gambling brand sponsorship on football shirts, in addition to a proportion of gambling companies’ revenue going to pay for addiction treatment.

In April this year the Committee for Advertising Practice declared that it and the ASA would be banning gambling advertising aimed even tangentially at under 18s. Its director Shahriar Coupal explained how far-ranging the ban would extend: “Importantly, our rules extend across all media, including online and the social media platforms popular with children. As gambling itself has increasingly become an online activity and its advertising has proliferated, it’s crucial that we set the rules and deliver the enforcement to keep children safe online.

“At the ASA, we’re in the business of telling advertisers what not to do. By introducing a ban on strong appeal to under 18s, however, we’re also inviting a new era in gambling advertising – one more tailored to its adult audience and less likely to appeal to a broader audience.”

The intersection of professional sports and gambling advertising has long been a point of contention, and has driven much of the conversation around changes to the Gambling Act 2005, which covers gambling advertising. The ASA’s changes meant that ads will not be able to use footballers with a considerable following among under 18s on social media, in addition to references to video game content and gameplay and stars from reality shows popular with under 18s, such as Love Island. Those rules are set to come into effect from October this year.

Tory MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith said he was “massively disappointed” the white paper had been delayed yet again: “I had my concerns about what was in it, or what was not in it. But whatever it was would have been an advance. It is all ready and all there in a package for when the next leader comes in.”

The row about gambling advertising and children has spilled over into the world of online gaming, with loot boxes – one of the most popular monetization methods for free-to-play games – proving to be controversial. In 2018 the Belgian Gaming Commission ruled that loot boxes breached gambling laws. Earlier this year a further 18 countries backed a report calling for loot box regulation.

The delay to the white paper was announced concurrently with the delay to the Online Safety Bill, also a casualty of the chaos following the prime minister’s resignation.

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