The NSW Government has issued show cause notices to two different betting operators for their Responsible Gambling messages in new TV advertisements that were aired to the general public. With the new consumer protection framework surrounding online gambling, there is sure to be some back and forth between overseeing bodies and gambling operators.
It goes without saying, the necessity to promote mindful and responsible gambling in ads applies to whatever activity customers prefer. Whether this means promoting free bets when placing a wager on an upcoming match, free spins for the latest online slot, or online blackjack for real money in Australia – customers need to be well informed.
How responsible gambling is communicated matters
The NSW government is disappointed in operators who aren’t taking their responsible gambling advertising conditions as seriously as they should, or are trying to minimize the effect of the new messaging requirements.
This is a tactic that you will have seen in other video advertising, where compulsory messaging is communicated quite differently from the messaging in the rest of the video. For example, in political TV advertising spots, you will hear a quick voiceover at the end of the ad, usually in a very fast, soft, lower tone, speaking about who funded the ad. So changing the messaging “feel” for compulsory messages is nothing new. In these political TV spots, the messaging feels like something the viewer will not listen to.
And this is the worry with the new responsible gambling messaging and how it is being communicated. Is it created so that viewers don’t listen to it?
The ads that caused the government to give out show cause notices
The NSW government has pulled up two separate wagering operators on the way they have communicated their new, compulsory, responsible gambling messages.
In the first TV advertisement, the responsible gambling message was spoken with a much lower decibel level than the rest of the content of the ad. This would make it hard for viewers to hear, even when the rest of the ad was perfectly clear to listen to.
In the second TV ad, the gambling operator changed the tone of voice from confident and strong to a very passive and soft note for the gambling message.
Both of these changes in the way the spoken word responsible gambling messages are communicated, and add up to a way to try and convince the audience that the message is less important than the rest of the ad’s messaging.
Thanks to these advertisements, the companies responsible have been issued show cause notices. Show cause notices are basically a document that is issued that gives details of an alleged offense and demands the other party explain their actions. It is now up to the companies to explain themselves, and then, depending on the explanation, the government department will decide whether to take disciplinary action.
The new Responsible Gambling framework
The new National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering has been implemented by the Australian federal government, in combination with State and Territory governments. It is designed to ensure consumer protection in online gambling.
There is a list of ten different protections outlined in the framework including surrounding lines of credit, payday lending, customer verification practices, new account incentives or referrals, account closures, deposit limits, activity statements, employee training, a national self-exclusion register, and, finally, responsible gambling messaging.
Responsible gambling messaging must go across advertising, direct marketing, websites, and other direct communications. As part of this measure, companies must have messaging about the risks and harm inherent in gambling. There are seven different taglines that companies can choose from to use in their messaging. This includes the “Chances are you’re about to lose” tagline and the “What’s gambling really costing you?” tagline, among others. In TV advertisements, there are only five of the seven taglines available for use. For TV ads that are 15 seconds or less, operators can simply display the message on the screen rather than being spoken.
There are also rules for how the tagline is spoken. According to the framework, it must be read “slowly, calmly, and with an even pace, by any gender,” and there are a number of lists of times in seconds each should last for.
Did the operators comply with the new rules?
If you take a look at the actual rules and what the advertisers have done, you can see that they are, in fact, compliant, although it seems clear that the advertisers are trying to skirt the rules. Depending on the outcome of the show cause notices, we’ll see what the consumer protection body has to say about it, although right now they’re warning other operators not to try the same tricks.
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