New Zealand’s ASA Creates New Gaming Advertisement Code

The ASA’s new policy favors SkyCity and other Kiwi operators, just as Australia’s IGA 2016 favored domestic sites.

New Zealand’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) released its updated advertisement code for gambling ads. The ASA new code banned a specific ad from Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, but has wider implications. ASA wants to make it harder for foreign offshore operators, while giving local operators like SkyCity Entertainment Group a leg up.

In that way, the Interactive Gaming Amendment (IGA) 2016 in Australia may have influenced the New Code. Whatever the case, the new Code goes into effect for new gambling advertisements by the 5th August. The ASA allowed existing gambling advertisements to stay in place until November 4th.

The government investigation of April 2018 found that Jackpot City was one of five online casinos that operated a sketchy business. The report described Jackpot City as a ‘global gaming and entertainment group’ licensed in Malta.

According to the reports, the entertainment group had ignoring the laws in place that prohibit the advertising of online gambling and have been promoting a free-to-play doppelganger site that has aired on prime-time television.

Free-to-Gamble Sites Targeted

The New Code covers “free-to-play” games, which remain controversial. The Code also includes advertiser, agency, media and public representatives, along with consultation with industry and public sectors.

ASA Chief Executive, Hilary Souter, said, “Reviewing and updating the Codes is an important part of the ASA’s work and it is great to have the new Gambling Advertising Code in place to support responsible advertising to consumers.”

ASA Chair, Hon. Heather Roy, thanked the Codes Committee for its work in developing the Gambling Advertising Code. She acknowledged the range of organizations allowed for valuable feedback during the consultation process.

The New ASA Code

The new codes lay out a very strict level of principles and guidelines in which all New Zealand operators will be required to adhere to. The ASA stated: “In interpreting the Code, emphasis will be placed on the Principles and the spirit and intention of the Code.”

The Principles are laid out as such:

(1) Principle 1: “Advertisements should comply with the laws of New Zealand.”
(2) Principle 2: “Advertisements should observe a high standard of social responsibility.”
(3) Principle 3: “Advertisements should not by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim mislead or deceive or be likely to mislead of deceive consumers, abuse the trust of or exploit the lack of knowledge of consumers, exploit the superstitious or without justifiable reason play on fear.”

Problem Gambling Foundation Applauds Code

Activists and watchdog groups approve of the changes, though operators lack excitement. Director of communication for the Problem Gambling Foundation, Andrée Froude, said the foundation supported and applauded the Advertising Standards Authority’s decision and determination to make the much-needed adjustments to the Codes.

Andree Froude said, “This is so important to protect children, young people and the vulnerable and lifts the bar for harm minimization. We were so appalled by The Spinoff’s experience with JackpotCity that we cited the article in our submission to the ASA as evidence of how a ‘free to play’ website, which was advertised on TV3, exploits the law to entice people to a gambling site.”

“Under the new advertising code, TV3 will not be able to advertise the ‘free to play‘ website – this is a huge win for harm minimization.”

Minister of Internal Affairs

Minister for Internal Affairs Tracey Martin mentioned the gambling legislation no longer fits the current gambling needs. Martin added, “Our gambling act was written in 2003. And these are all new developments we just don’t have legislation for.”

“These companies are going to push their way into this country. We have to put in place updated legislation to manage that. If you leave a space, then someone will fill it.”

SkyCity made a presentation to shareholders in which they announced their record $169.5 million net profit. During that conference, SkyCity hinted towards the desire of launching their own online casino. At first look New Zealand, prohibits ventures into online gambling. However, the casino giant managed to find a loophole, so it ended up with a pre-existing offshore entity.

Tracey Martin on Offshore Gaming Sites

Tracey Martin said when the ASA wrote the Old Code, they sought fair changes. Offshore operators broke the spirit of the law, though they stayed within legal parameters.

Martin added, “This would likely put them on the same footing as any other offshore gambling operator and under current law, New Zealanders would be able to access those gambling products. Our current legislation is based on three principles – of community benefit, harm minimization, and trusted providers – and gambling online with offshore operators disrupts that.”

The ASA clarified certain questions in the New Code. The government owns the TAB and the lottery, who operate offshore companies. Such operators have deposit-matching and bet-pushing via text and email. The new code states no changes regarding this situation, which could open the door for commercial sites.

Development and Growth in NZ Gambling

Besides the advertisements contributing to the prominence of problem gambling, betting and gaming machines rose rapidly in prominence. Even if the ads are limited, growth is expected to continue. However, these machines are considered beneficial, because of the sales taxes they generate for the government.

The TAB rebranded under the new slogan “Now you’re in the game” in 2017, because it needed an update. TAB had hopes of distancing itself from a public impression of “impenetrable, blokey, tired, and old fashioned” gaming.

Simon Jarvis, Head of Strategic Marketing, said at the time, “We felt it was the right time to reposition the TAB brand to broaden our mainstream appeal for a modern Kiwi audience and to set ourselves up for future growth.”

Problem Gambling Foundation Still Concerned

TAB’s rebranding caused a lot of debate and discussion from the industry including concerns from the Problem Gambling Foundation. The Foundations CEO, Paula Snowden, said that associating participation in sports with real money gambling is inappropriate.

Despite the foundations concerns, TAB’s campaign proved a huge success. The kick off brought out nearly 17,000 first time bettors and a turnover of $11.6 million. The growth did not stop there, but carried over into the following year. Tab’s operating profit closed at $2.8m, which equates to 3.4%.