Volume: 16 Issue: 10
The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (‘IGRG’) published on 2 October 2017 the third edition of its ‘Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising’ (the ‘Code’), which includes amendments in regards to limiting access to gambling materials across social media for under-18s, and the introduction of a reference to the need for operators to use “their best endeavours” to ensure affiliates conducting marketing on their behalf also follow the Code. Another new requirement is for any references on operators’ materials to GambleAware to be altered to www.begambleaware.org.
“The primary focus of the updating exercise relates to advertising on social media, which comes as no surprise given the latest gambling industry statistics which show that 21% of those who gamble online were prompted to do so by such campaigns,” notes Anna Mathias, Barrister and Associate at Woods Whur.
The latest update to the Code, which is to be implemented by the end of 2017, follows the IGRG’s commitment to regularly review the Code as part of its last update, which entered effect in early 2016. The Code is designed to supplement the principal rules on gambling advertising from the Committee of Advertising Practice (‘CAP’) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (‘BCAP’), covering areas not featured in the CAP/BCAP rules.
The updated Code appears to be a reaction in part to the increased regulatory and media focus of recent months on the activities of affiliates on behalf of gambling operators, with this latest version of the Code being the first to specifically reference affiliates. “The use of ‘best endeavours’ type wording will be familiar to those used to drafting/negotiating commercial contracts; these terms are used to place an obligation on a party to ‘try’ to fulfil an obligation, rather than place an absolute obligation to do so,” explains Chris Elliott, Associate at Wiggin LLP. “Whilst it remains uncertain how far operators should go, it is fair to assume that a requirement to take ‘best endeavours’ sets the bar high. In effect, the Code now encourages operators to take all those steps within its power which are capable of ensuring compliance, even if it comes at a cost to operators. It does beg the question whether it asks operators to become quasi-regulators of affiliates themselves; should operators be required to police large affiliate networks?”
In terms of social media marketing, the updates to the Code add requirements relating to Twitter and YouTube; operators must now ensure consumer-facing marketing content on their YouTube channels carries social responsibility and age limit messaging, for example, while operators using Twitter are now required to use the platform’s age-screening function to avoid under-18s seeing inappropriate content. “These new provisions aren’t in themselves a huge undertaking to comply with, but they do certainly add an additional layer of regulatory burden on what is already a heavily regulated area,” said Alasdair Lamb, Associate at CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP. “The changes won’t cause any revolution in the way operators approach social media advertising but they do pose yet more regulatory pitfalls.”
“Other social media products are not mentioned, but the same principles must apply - what about WhatsApp, Snapchat, or Instagram, which are more attractive to a younger demographic? Of course, operators should take similar steps on all social media advertising and it’s impossible for the IGRG Code to keep pace with newly launched social media products,” said Richard Williams, Joint-Head of Licensing, Gaming & Regulatory at Joelson.
“The IGRG Code will always be one step behind developments in the marketplace, such as social media,” adds Williams. “Operators must be proactive - if they are a beacon for good practice, this will benefit their business in the long run. Marketing quick gains from misleading advertising and/or socially irresponsible advertising are not sustainable and will lead to a bad customer experience, negative PR and ultimately loss of business.”