The standing room only event was chaired by Carolyn Harris MP and attended by several cross-party MPs and Lord Chadlington, as well as 50 spectators with a range of interests in gambling regulation.
Delivering his address about the legality of advertising remote gambling in Northern Ireland, which has different gambling legislation to mainland UK, he was able not only to give his views on legal compliance but also to share his experiences and frustrations in seeking to uphold the law on behalf of a client via the Advertising Standards Authority (the ASA).
Although the ASA’s own advertised purpose is to ensure that adverts are “legal, decent, honest and truthful”, when it came to this issue of legality the ASA refused to open an investigation on the basis that it is “unable to interpret or apply legislation”. This was despite lengthy discussions with Ben and the ASA accepting, in part through its own initial enquiries, that the law was likely being broken.
Ben pointed out the irony of the ASA’s own advertising claiming that it ensures advertising is legal yet refusing to take steps to do so, which led to him helping his client take the appropriate action when affronted by advertising which is perceived to be misleading: complain to the ASA about it. Again, though, the ASA did not investigate the complaint about its own advertising.
Speaking about the event, Ben said,
“The advertising industry’s self-regulatory regime is not living up to its billing, and when that is in the context of gambling sadly the consequences can be very real. The APPG has already been successful in reducing the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2 and from the session it was clear that the group feels its work is not finished there.”