New standards will limit the way gambling brands advertise online to protect children from the potential risks associated with “irresponsible” advertising.

Coming into force on 1 April, the guidelines devised by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), which is responsible for writing and maintaining the UK advertising codes, will prohibit online ads for gambling products being targeted at individuals likely to be aged under 18. These standards cover all digital media including social networks and other online platforms.

Content deemed unacceptable includes animated characters, licensed characters from film or TV shows, sportspeople or celebrities who particularly appeal to children, or references to ‘youth culture’. The standard also prohibits the use in gambling ads of sportspeople, celebrities or other characters who are, or appear to be, under 25.

The standards come into force just two days after a BBC Panorama investigation detailed the story of a 13-year-old who lost money on a gambling-style game promoted by a 17-year-old YouTube influencer. The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, is now calling on social media companies that fail to tackle irresponsible advertising by influencers to be fined or shut down.

Shahriar Coupal, CAP director, believes it is “ill-advised” for gambling advertisers to play at the “margins of compliance”, especially when the welfare of children is at stake. He is, therefore, urging advertisers to take greater care in the placement and content of gambling ads to ensure they are not inadvertently targeted at under-18s.

Looking specifically at social media, CAP insists gambling brands must use all the tools available to them on the platform to prevent their ads being targeted at under-18s. This includes using ad targeting facilities provided by the platform, paying attention to data relating to the user’s interests and browsing behaviour, and utilising any tools which restrict under-18s’ access to the brand’s own social media content.

Sarah Hanratty, CEO of the Senet Group, the body which promotes responsible gambling standards, praises CAP for taking a tougher stance on adverts with the potential to appeal to children.