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Reality TV & Sports Stars To Be Banned From Gambling Adverts

jose mourinho paddy power advertismentThe Committee of Advertising Practice, which is the body responsible for setting out the rules on advertising that are then enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority, has decided that top-flight footballers will no longer be allowed to feature in adverts for gambling companies. In addition, sports personalities and reality TV stars will be banned from such ads, as will social media stars. The idea is that by stopping such people from appearing in betting adverts, the youngest and most vulnerable people will be much less likely to be influenced into gambling.

As things currently stand, adverts are only banned if they are likely to be appealing to those under 18 than to adults. When the new rules come into play, it will mean that an advert will be banned if it seems to reflect or be associated with youth culture. The new set of rules around betting adverts will come into play in October, meaning that they’ll be enforceable in time for the World Cup in November. It is common for betting and gambling companies to spend large amounts of money targeting World Cup audiences, so this will force a change in how they decide to advertise.

The rules come in addition to rules set back in 2019 that prevented gambling companies from using images of players or celebrities under the age of 25 amidst a general crackdown on the use of imagery that may appeal to children.  The idea then was to prevent young role models being used to advertise betting, however, many gambling companies switched tact and began using older ex-players (e.g. Robbie Savage and Jermaine Jenas for William Hill) or older managers (e.g. Jose Mourinho for Paddy Power). In light of that the ASA and CAP now clearly now feel they must go further and ban all sports personalities and reality TV stars from these ads.

No Appealing To Young People

no under 18 warningIt has long been the case that adverts for gambling companies have to steer clear of things that might appeal to young people. Slot games that appear to be somewhat childish in their nature have been banned, for example, whilst the Committee of Advertising Practice made it clear last year that adverts ‘must not be of particular appeal to children or young persons.’ This meant that companies needed to be very careful when it came to the words and imagery that they used in their adverts in order to ensure that they didn’t fall foul of the rules.

Even so, companies found ways around that by using people in their adverts that tended to appeal to a youth audience. Despite being accused of rape, Cristiano Ronaldo tends to appeal to younger people because of his profile. Equally, social media stars such as Chris Hughes, who shot to fame thanks to Love Island, were seen as offering a ‘strong appeal’ to younger people. Betting companies used the likes of reality TV personalities and those linked to sport in order to appeal to younger people without breaking CAP’s rules on the issue.

Now it seems as if that backdoor will be slammed shut, given the move to stop the use of such people moving forwards. There has been a desire to protect young and vulnerable people from gambling related harm for years, but this is definitely one of the biggest changes to be made by the advertising authority in some time. This shift in approach was confirmed by the Director of the Committee of Advertising Practice, Shahriar Coupal, who said:

“By ending these practices, our new rules invite a new era for gambling ads, more particular to the adult audience they can target and more befitting of the age-restricted product they’re promoting.”

Who Advertises What At The Moment?

jose mourinho paddy power advertAs things currently stand, companies are able to work with celebrities as much as they want, as long as they are legally old enough to take part in the adverts that are being made. As a result, there are sports personalities involved with numerous different betting companies. One of the most high-profile in recent years is José Mourinho, who has been part of Paddy Power’s campaigns since 2019. His use will be banned under the new rules, which means that the likes of the company’s ‘Special One’ advert will be taken off air.

Paddy Power are one of the more controversial companies when it comes to adverts, of course. As a result, they’ve worked with the likes of former West Ham United and Arsenal player Jack Wilshere, as well as Ryan Giggs’ brother Rhodri. Harry Redknapp is another sports personality that will no longer be able to take part in adverts, such as the ones that he’s been in for betting company BetVictor. The aforementioned Chris Hughes, meanwhile, has worked as the brand ambassador for Coral Racing and will now be banned from doing so.

What Has Been Said About The Ban

football contoversyObviously such a seismic shift in the way in which adverts will be policed moving forward has led to numerous people weighing in. Former Arsenal player Paul Merson, for example, is behind the move, saying that it ‘sickens’ him when he sees former footballers as well as managers appear in gambling adverts. ‘Mers’, as he’s affectionately known to fans, suffers from a gambling addiction himself and believes that sports stars wouldn’t appear in such adverts if they knew someone with the affliction. He says that he feels ‘triggered’ when he sees betting adverts on TV.

Lord Don Foster, who is the Chairman of Peers for Gambling Reform, was pleased to see the changes but also warned that it wouldn’t do enough to stop gambling adverts from reaching a young audience. He said,

“It won’t stop gambling advertisements appearing on the shirts of children’s sporting heroes nor many of the other concerning actions of gambling companies who spend over £1.5bn a year promoting their products. The government should ban all links between sport and gambling, all inducements, such as so-called ‘free’ bets, and direct marketing to individual customers and take steps to reduce all forms of gambling advertising.”

The Betting & Gaming Council, meanwhile, said that the whistle-to-whistle ban that was introduced in 2019 has already had an impact on the problem, reducing gambling adverts seen by young people by 97%. Michael Dugher, the Chief Executive of the organisation, said that the changes being introduced are looking to build on measure that were led by the industry and should ‘drive up standard and ensure further protections in advertising’. He did, though, point to the fact that scratch cards and fruit machines were more popular with young people than sports betting.

The Director of the Committee of Advertising Practice, Shahriar Coupal, said,

“No more social media influencers, TV stars or other celebrities popular with children inviting us to bet on red. And, no more gambling ads featuring video game images or gameplay familiar to many children’s live. This might not seem immediately significant but its effect, particularly in a World Cup year, will be dramatic. By ending these practices, our new rules invite a new era for gambling ads, more particular to the adult audience they can target and more befitting of the age-restricted product they’re promoting.”

Where Will Interference End?

tv advertising banThe obvious question that emerges from this news is where, exactly, the interference from the likes of the CAP or the Advertising Standards Authority will end. The ASA itself has said that children were seeing an average of 2.2 betting adverts a week, which was the lowest level for 12 years. For some, that isn’t low enough and there needs to be a move towards zero tolerance. For others, however, there needs to be less interference from the authorities and a sense of entrusting people to make their own decisions whenever that is possible to do.

The vast majority of people are able to see gambling adverts and be entirely unmoved by them. In 2018, for example, 24.5 million people in England gambled. That amounted to 54% of the population, falling to 40% if you excluded those that took part in the National Lottery. Of that figure, just 0.5% of the population reached the threshold that would allow them to be considered problem gamblers. The figure had remained consistent since 2012, whilst 3.8% of the population could be though of as ‘at-risk’ gamblers, experience some level of negative consequences as a result of their gambling.

In other words, about 122,500 can be considered to be problem gamblers, with that number increasing to 931,000 when you lookout those that are at-risk. Whilst that is obviously a much larger number than anyone would be happy with, is it right that the 23-plus million other people are constantly being monitored and restricted because of the minority? To give you a sense of where gambling sits, about 29 million in the United Kingdom drink alcohol, with approximately 602,391 being dependent on it. That is obviously more than the number of problem gamblers, yet the interference on alcohol advertising is less than the gambling industry suffers.

No one would suggest that no restrictions should be put in place on gambling companies, but are we reaching the point at which the interference from the various governing bodies is becoming too much? Are we at risk of becoming a nanny-state over certain aspects of our lives? Those are the questions that some people are asking as the CAP moves to limit how many celebrities can appear in adverts for products that it is perfectly legitimate for adults to play. It is also worth bearing in mind that it is illegal for younger people to gamble, so is the advertising really the problem?

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