It comes amid fears that such adverts are playing on people’s vulnerabilities and encouraging them to behave irresponsibly.
The new, tougher rules come after the Gambling Commission found more than 2 million people in the UK are either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction and warned that the government and industry were not doing enough to tackle the problem.
The Committee of Advertising Practice, which regulates adverts, will enforce the crackdown from April and will ban adverts which break its updated standards.
A spokesman said: “The advert doesn’t make clear upfront that it’s a matched bet. So if you put in a £5 deposit, you get £5 in a free bet rather than £50 as advertised. The matched bet info is in the terms and conditions that you have to click on to access. This looks problematic under our new standards and our compliance team are now looking into it.”
Under the standards firms must also make clear that “money back” offers must be in cash and not bonuses.
Likewise “risk free” offers must incur no loss to the consumer and when it comes to “matched bets”, any stake limitation should be treated as a significant condition and stated upfront, CAP said.
Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice, Shahriar Coupal, said: “We won’t tolerate gambling ads that exploit people’s vulnerabilities or play fast and loose with eye-catching free bet and bonus offers. Our new guidance takes account of the best available evidence to strengthen the protections already in place, ensuring that gambling is presented responsibly, minimising the potential for harm.”
Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the Local Government Association’s ‘Safer and Stronger Communities Board’, said: “Councils have previously called for greater restrictions on gambling advertising and we are pleased to see the steps taken by the Committees of Advertising Practice to address this.
“Urgent or time limited offers encouraging people to bet immediately, and misleading descriptions such as ‘risk free’, can be particularly harmful for problem gamblers, so it’s right that they should be stopped. However, there must still be consideration of whether more curbs are needed alongside this.”