The Gambling Act 2005 generally permits the advertising of gambling in all forms, provided that it is legal and there are adequate protections in place to prevent such advertisements undermining the licensing objectives.
However, the Act makes clear that primary responsibility for the form, content, timing and location of gambling advertising rests with Ofcom (S.29 and the Communications Act 2003) and, in the case of non-broadcast advertising, the Secretary of State (S.28).
In 2004 Ofcom established a co-regulatory partnership with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). In practice, this means that the ASA is responsible on a day-to-day basis for regulating the content of broadcast adverts. The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) is responsible for writing and maintaining the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising, but Ofcom retains overall sign-off on major changes to the Code. Ofcom still has overall legal responsibility to maintain standards in broadcast advertising.
Non-broadcast advertising is regulated through an established system of self-regulation. The rules for gambling advertising are written by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and enforced independently by the ASA. The rules were developed in conjunction with the Commission to reflect the licensing objectives and are kept under regular review.
The rules for advertising, including sponsorship, are complemented by the Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising which is owned and enforced by the Industry Group for Socially Responsible Advertising (IGRG). For example, the Industry Code requires that gambling operators do not allow their logos or other promotional material to appear on any commercial merchandising (e.g. sports shirts) which is designed for use by children (defined as that which does not attract VAT). It also requires that broadcast adverts for betting and gaming are not shown before 9pm unless around a live sporting event – this goes above and beyond legislative and regulatory requirements.
The ASA has also published an explanation of how online advertising is regulated - click here to read it.