The marketing and advertising rules for gambling industry haven’t changed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, but European regulators have clearly highlighted the areas of public concern.

The European Gambling Associations issued Guidance On Safer Online Gambling And Responsible Advertising, while the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published a series of guidelines, blogs and rulings, setting out their revised priorities and policies during this period.

Advertising authorities are working in partnership with customer protection institutions to prevent online disinformation and COVID scams.

European gambling operators should keep apparent references to coronavirus from gambling advertising and ensure that World Health Organisation statements don’t appear in marketing campaigns. Online gambling should not be portrayed as a solution to social, personal or financial problems or an escape from boredom.

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) encourages people to report gambling ads violating the rules, such as referring to alleviating boredom by gambling during the lockdown, while the Gambling Commission reminded operators that people may be particularly vulnerable at this time and issued new customer protection guidelines for online operators.

The ASA has been very clear that it will take an extremely dim view of anyone seeking to capitalise on the pandemic to sell products or services, saying:

“Think very carefully before you make any direct or implied claims about coronavirus or COVID-19 in your advertising – all ads must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society and the ASA is unlikely to have any patience for marketers seeking to unfairly exploit the outbreak to sell products or services or otherwise make claims that would be considered socially irresponsible.”

The gambling operators should consider their future reopening campaigns and review existing adverts which may trigger complaints because they are no longer appropriate at this time. Avoid depicting people hugging each other, sharing food with their hands or taking part in mass gatherings.

Advertising has always required sensitivity to the unintended public impact and now the industry has new circumstances to consider while conveying the key message to their clients.

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