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Crackdown on UK gambling ads expected to ban use of celebrities

Mark Sweney
·2-min read

The use of celebrities such as sports personalities and reality TV stars in betting and gambling ads is expected to be banned under new rules designed to crack down on marketing targeting under-18s.

The rules, which are being proposed by the body responsible for setting the UK code for advertising, would result in recent gambling ads featuring personalities such as José Mourinho, Michael Owen and Harry Redknapp being banned.

Under the current rules an advert is banned only if it likely to appeal more to an under-18 than to an adult. Under the new rules an ad will be banned if it appeals to children, regardless of how it may be viewed by adults.

The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), which has launched a public consultation on the new measures, said the new rules would have a significant effect on adverts that use prominent sportspeople and celebrities, including reality TV stars from shows such as Love Island and social media influencers.

“For example, featuring the England football captain in a gambling ad would be prohibited under this new rule,” said the CAP.

Ads featuring some celebrities not significantly resonant with younger audiences, such as Ray Winstone who has fronted numerous ads for Bet365, would not be affected by the new rules.

The CAP said it was tightening betting and gambling advertising restrictions as a result of recent research commissioned by GambleAware. It said the findings showed that the creative content of gambling adverts that currently abide by the UK code has more potential to affect under-18s than was previously thought.

Many campaigning groups would like to see a complete ban on gambling advertising. However, the CAP said the available evidence did not justify a total ban.

The CAP did not put forward a GambleAware recommendation to further restrict the range of media where gambling ads can appear. Gambling and betting ads are not currently allowed to appear in any media where more than a quarter of the audience is under 18 years old.

The CAP said it considered the “25% test” to be appropriate.

Last summer, the gambling industry introduced a voluntary ban on betting adverts during sports programmes, a so-called “whistle-to-whistle” blackout, under mounting pressure to protect children from excessive exposure to gambling.