The UK’s advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has asked the UK public to report any gambling advertisements that refer to the online coronavirus pandemic.
The watchdog said that the behaviour of the online gambling sector, particularly the frequency and content of its advertising, was under close scrutiny during the pandemic lockdown, which has created, what it described as a ‘captive audience’ with many people facing uncertainty and financial problems.
The lockdown in the UK has already led the ASA to set up a reporting process in order to alert them to any coronavirus-related advertising claims. They are urging members of the public to report any gambling advertisement that refers to the pandemic or any aspect of it. It also said that any advertisement that suggested gambling as a solution to boredom or financial problems should also be reported. Explaining their approach, an ASA statement said that such advertisements would cause concern in ordinary times, but that the present situation increased the risk:
“The present circumstances exacerbate this, so the ASA will not hesitate to take firm action against irresponsible messaging in gambling ads. To this end, we will continue our close working relationship with the licensing authority, the Gambling Commission, to identify issues and enforce compliance.”
The ASA say they will be monitoring industry advertising looking for a variety of different issues linked to the current crisis. These include ads that trivialise gambling, reference at-risk gambling behaviour such as playing late at night or refer to personal problems.
They also emphasise that the shutdown will not stop them from increasing efforts to keep children safe from gambling advertising. These include the use of avatar technology to create a simulated version of a child’s browsing profile to ensure that companies are following the rules and not directly or indirectly targeting children with their advertising campaigns.