Posted by Woods Whur | Gambling

The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (“IGRG”) has updated its Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising (“the Code”) this month. This is the 3rd version of the Code, and a full copy may be downloaded here: http://igrg.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gicodev3.pdf.

The IGRG is currently composed of the Association of British Bookmakers, BACTA, the Bingo Association, the National Casino Forum and the Remote Gambling Association (“RGA”). IGRG was established in 2014 and incorporated in November 2015. Its object is to promote socially responsible gambling across all of the gambling sectors in the UK.

This latest iteration of the IGRG’s Code is intended to fully be implemented by the end of the year. The Code was originally introduced on 1 September 2007. It was aimed at augmenting other social responsibility measures relating to gambling advertising imposed and enforced by the Gambling Commission (“GC”) and the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) and to detail a range of measures that go above and beyond the already extensive requirements placed on operators by those regulators.

It remains the case, under this latest draft of the Code, that the gambling industry will look to the GC and the ASA for the enforcement of the rules relating to socially responsible gambling advertising. This includes compliance with the Codes of Practice issued by the Committee for Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice, which are enforced by the ASA, which is also required by the GC’s Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (“LCCP”).

It was always envisaged that the Code would be reviewed on an ongoing basis and, accordingly, the industry welcomed the Government’s decision, in 2014, to initiate a review of all aspects of the regulation of gambling advertising. The then Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (“DCMS”) wrote to the RGA to request a review of the industry Code:

“to ensure that controls keep at pace with developments in the market, and continue to reflect public attitudes towards gambling advertising”.

 A number of amendments and updating measures to the Code followed the subsequent review and engagement with DCMS and a commitment was given at the time by IGRG to review the Code on a regular basis. This 3rd version of the Code reflects the latest developments in this ongoing process.

The Code was proactively volunteered, from its inception, by the gambling industry as a result of the liberalisation of gambling advertising brought about by the implementation of the Gambling Act 2005 in September 2007. This was as a result of the facts that the new advertising freedoms were relatively untested and that there was little evidence about their potential impact. As a result, a number of precautionary measures were introduced at that time, the most significant of which being the 9.00pm television watershed for all gambling product advertising except for that relating to bingo and sports betting surrounding televised sports events, a requirement for all advertisements to include information leading to the GambleAware website, and a prohibition on sponsoring operators’ logos appearing on any children’s merchandise.

This latest version of the Code continues primarily to be focused upon the issues of problem and underage gambling. It also continues to place the primary responsibility for enforcement upon the GC and the ASA. In practice, when breaches of the Code are identified, the company concerned has generally already taken remedial action provided any breaches are brought to its attention. If this is not the case then the IGRG will look to the GC to “encourage companies to be compliant”, as per the GC’s LCCP.

Complaints about breaches of the Code go here: adcodecomplaints@igrg.org.uk. The relevant specific Code requirement, together with details of where the alleged breach was noticed, should be included within any complaint, together with any other details that the complainant can provide. The IGRG then commits to considering the case before responding to the complainant and placing a summary of the complaint and decision on its website, albeit the complainant’s details will not be disclosed at this stage. Any sanctions will fall to the GC or ASA to apply and enforce.

The principal changes brought about by the 3rd Edition of the Code are as follows:

 

  • Following a rebranding, GambleAware has been replaced by a reference to the following link: https://about.gambleaware.org/fundraising/begambleaware-logo/. All references to GambleAware on print and broadcast media must be changed and made clearly legible to www.begambleaware.org, as soon as possible and ideally before the end of the year, although the existing link http://www.gambleaware.co.uk will remain operational until the end of 2018, but will redirect visitors to the new website;

 

  • A raft of new measures relating to advertising on social media, designed to limit further the access of under-18s to inappropriate gambling marketing material on YouTube and Twitter.

 

  • Gambling operators must now carry the required social responsibility and age requirement specifications on consumer-facing marketing content on their YouTube channels. They must also use the Twitter age-screening function when marketing to consumers, which approach has previously been piloted by the alcohol industry. In addition, they must restrict or direct marketing video uploads to YouTube. This can be done simply by checking the age restriction option when uploading content, via: https://support.google.com/YouTube/answers/2950063?rd=1.

 

  • For the first time, the Code includes a requirement that operators use their best endeavours to ensure that any affiliates that market on their behalf do so compliantly. This reflects the provisions of the GC’s LCCP, notably Licence Condition 16.1.1(b).

As mentioned above, the latest amendments to the Code, which should be fully implemented by the end of this year, represent an attempt by the IGRG to keep up with the continuously and rapidly involving nature of the online gambling market. As social media continues to evolve, operators will need to take care to ensure that they are similarly vigilant across all channels, even if the IGRG Code does not specifically refer to them. The IGRG expressly says in this month’s Edition of the Code that it’s unlikely that any further revisions will be made in a short term but responsibility nevertheless rests with operators to ensure that they continue to promote high standards across all advertising channels, as these evolve.

This does beg the question as to what impact the IGRG Code will have in real terms, in what is already a heavily-regulated field that falls under the responsibility of the GC and ASA. As I finish writing this article, Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the ASA, is on the news stressing that advertisements on Snapchat and other social media must be flagged as such, for example by the use of the hashtag #ad, and gambling operators advertising on any form of social media would do well to remember this.

Should you have any queries about the latest changes to the IGRG Code, please do not hesitate to contact Anna Mathias at Anna@woodswhur.co.uk.