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BGC extends advertising rules to digital media

| By Robert Fletcher
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has released updated rules for members on advertising, extending existing commitments to cover digital media marketing.
BGC advertising rules

Published in the Seventh Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising (IGRG code), the revamped rules apply to all BGC members. The BGC said the updated rule set is designed to better protect children and young people from exposure to gambling adverts.

Among the major changes is extending the current commitment that 20% of advertising is devoted to safer gambling messaging. This previously only applied to television and radio ads, but this will now also cover digital media advertising.

The BGC is also expanding its “25+ rule” to digital media platforms that offer an appropriate age filter. Previously, BGC rules stated all sponsored or paid-for social media adverts must be targeted at users aged 25 and over unless the website can prove its ads can precisely target over-18s. 

The new code is due to come into effect from 1 December this year. The BGC worked with Bacta, the Bingo Association and the Lotteries Council to formulate the updated rules.

“Helping protect young people is our number one priority,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said. “BGC members have already taken significant steps to ensure adverts by our members only reach the right audiences. With more help from the platforms, we can do even more.

“Safer gambling messaging is also absolutely crucial. It is about ensuring that customers use safer gambling tools like setting deposits limits and time outs. It is also about the vitally important work of signposting the help that is out there to help the minority of gamblers who might be struggling with their betting and gaming. 

“The new edition of the IGRG Code is further evidence of our determination to continue to ensure that standards are rising and are as high as they can possibly be.”

Ongoing efforts to protect under-18s

The rule changes represent the latest effort by the BGC to protect under-18s from exposure to gambling adverts.

Other measures already in place include a whistle-to-whistle ban on TV gambling ads. The BGC also implemented cooling-off periods on gaming machines, encouraged deposit limits and introduced new ID and age verification checks for members.

The BGC has also championed increased funding for research, education and treatment. In addition, it introduced a code of conduct for placing a ban on football clubs using their social media accounts to post direct marketing on betting. 

“As the standards body for the regulated sector, we are committed to continuing to drive up standards and make big changes across the betting and gaming industry,” Dugher said. “Helping protect young people is our number one priority.”

BGC defends Dugher following Samaritans criticism

Confirmation of the new rules comes after Dugher last week was criticised by support charity the Samaritans. The charity accused Dugher of attempting to “twist” its words in a bid to diminish the link between gambling addiction and suicide.

Dugher referenced Samaritans advice that “suicide is complex” when giving evidence to the DCMS Select Committee on gambling in July. The Committee was questioning Dugher on the dangers of addictive gambling products when the suicide of Luke Ashton was raised.

The Samaritans says there is usually a combination of lots of different factors with suicide. However, in the Ashton case, a coroner concluded a “gambling disorder” was one of two causes of death. Dugher acknowledged this during his appearance at the Committee.

Responding to the Samaritans complaint, the BGC denied Dugher attempted to manipulate guidance, describing the accusations as a “smear”.

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