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Gambling Firms Could Be Banned from Using Celebrities to Advertise Their Products

Television with Blank Blue ScreenIt’s the last thing that the bookies wanted to hear in these trying times.

The UK’s regulatory authority for advertising wants to ban celebrities from endorsing the products and services of bookmakers – and that could mean the end of Ray Winstone’s large floating CGI head barking out the latest odds on our screens.

The likes of Jose Mourinho, Harry Redknapp, Peter Crouch and, erm, Brian Blessed have appeared in ads for Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, BetVictor and co, but those could be a thing of the past if the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) get their way.

Their objective is to make gambling less appealing to under-18s, for whom startling statistics reveal the alarming extent to which minors are able to place a bet, and by minimising the number of celebs and footballing figures used CAP believes less interest will be aroused.

The current wording of advertising rules state that an ad can only be banned where ‘it is likely to appeal more to an under-18 than an adult’, and so the likes of acting hard nut Winstone don’t necessarily breach that remit.

But moving forward, CAP wants to extend that particular rule by banning the use of prominent celebrities in any guise – whether a younger audience would be familiar with them or not.

The regulator also wants to such ban stars who specifically appeal to the younger demographic – be it social media influencers or Love Island contestants – from advertising for any brand deemed potentially harmful to children.

The regulator has been running a consultation with a number of stakeholders inside and out of the gambling industry, and the belief is that they will look to tighten gambling advertising restrictions even further. Some firms have already agreed voluntarily not to advertise during live football matches – the so-called ‘whistle-to-whistle’ blackout – and before the 9pm watershed, but some critics want this to go even further.

CAP have been working closely with GambleAware to draw up their recommendations, and while they won’t advise on a complete gambling ban – as many campaigners want – they will recommend that ads are banned on media where 25% or more of the audience is under the age of 18.

The Crackdown Continues

Laptop with Play Symbol

The latest moves follow on from the rules introduced in April 2019, where betting firms were banned from partnering with social media influencers unless it could be proven that the individual’s core audience was largely 18 and over.

That was another CAP move after research from the UK Gambling Commission revealed that as many as 450,000 children aged 11-16 were considered ‘regular’ gamblers.

The new rules from CAP also focused on the use of animated characters in gambling ads, and also where those promotional messages were located. Any licensed character or animation must clearly be aged 25 and over and not inextricably linked to children in some way.

For example, Coral had to take down their Lucky Wizard game because it featured an animated mascot that could appeal to a youthful audience, while a slot game in which the main characters are Hansel and Gretel also had to change the way it advertised itself.

And William Hill got a big slap on the wrist when one of their betting promotions appeared as an advert in a Mario Kart gaming app.