UK Gambling Companies Agree to Ban on Sports Broadcast Adverts
British gambling companies agreed to a “whistle-to-whistle” ban on television advertisements during live sporting events. The gaming groups agreed not to broadcast adverts during a specific period of time before and after matches, but that gives the companies the right to broad ads outside those times.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG) said the new policy was “long overdue”. CFG also said sports broadcasts in the UK “should have also included bans on shirt and league sponsorship, and pitch-side scrolling displays.”
The Remote Gambling Association, which includes heavyweight international offshore bookmakers like Ladbrokes, William Hill, and Paddy Power, agreed to the voluntary ban. The list of operators in the UK market which agreed to the ban includes Betfred, SkyBet, Stan James, Betfair, and Gala Coral.
A spokesman for the Remote Gambling Association said, “The Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising is reviewed annually, and several options are currently being considered as the basis for possible enhancements in 2019.”
The RGA spokesman said that “nothing has been finalised yet”, but companies have made a handshake pledge to change their marketing strategies.
Jeremy Wright: “Welcome Move”
Jeremy Wright MP, the British government’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said it was a “welcome move”. He added, “Gambling firms banning advertising on TV during live sport is a welcome move and I am pleased that the sector is stepping up and responding to public concerns.”
After a recent UK Gambling Commission report showed a four-fold rise in underage gambling in the United Kingdom over the past 2 years, Secretary Wright said, “It is vital children and vulnerable people are protected from the threat of gambling related harm. Companies must be socially responsible.”
Tom Watson: Underage Betting at “Crisis Levels”
Tom Watson, an outspoken critic of the UK gambling industry and Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, praised the move. Watson said the underage gambling statistics had shown underage gambling had reached “crisis levels”.
Saying he was “delighted” by the news, Tom Watson added, “There was clear public support for these restrictions and I’m glad that the Remote Gambling Association has taken its responsibilities seriously and listened.”
Sarah Hanratty: “Advertising…around Live Sport…Unsustainable”
Sarah Hanratty, CEO of the Senet Group — an industry-led watchdog group funded by the UK’s four largest bookmaker operators — agreed that the move was long overdue. Hanratty said in a press release, “It has been clear for some time now that the volume and density of advertising and sponsorship messaging from gambling companies around live sport has become unsustainable.”
“This is a welcome move from the leading industry operators who are taking the initiative to respond to public concern.”
GambleAware Says “Not Enough”
GambleAware, a UK-based responsible gambling advocacy group, pointed out that the tv ban should be followed with an online ban during Australian sports live streams. In a statement, GambleAware said, “It is important to pay attention to analysis that shows the marketing spend online is five times the amount spent on television.”
The statement by GambleAware led the BBC to speculate that shirt advertisements might be the next step to rein in gambling companies’ advertisements in the British sports industry. It would be a further blow to English Premier League (EPL) clubs, as nearly half of the football clubs have shirt advertisements from gaming groups.
UK Gambling Industry’s Troubles
Gaming companies also would find it hard to sustain. This year alone, UK gaming groups have sustained two hammer blows to their revenues. First, the UK government rolled back bet minimums on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2.
Second, a decision was made to raise the Point-of-Consumption Tax (POCT) to target offshore operators who leave the UK for Gibraltar and Malta, which serve as tax shelters. The decisions were supposed to go into effect later in 2019 or into 2020, to give UK gaming companies a chance to prepare for the blow and invest in new projects overseas.
Instead, the weakened Theresa May government was forced to speed the implementation of the regulations up to April 2019. To pay for the loss of FOBT revenues, the POCT law was enforced. The Exchequer will not suffer, but gaming groups will deal with a much different business model.
UK Gaming Groups Face New Reality
The whistle-to-whistle ban is a third serious blow to the industry in a short period of time. UK residents probably will not cry for the gaming companies’ plights, given the amount of profit William Hill, Ladbrokes, and Paddy Power have made off the UK citizenry over the decades.
In fact, many UK residents and the MPs who represent them will argue that the UK gambling operators brought misfortune on themselves from crassness or even rampant greed. Whatever the case, the UK gambling industry faces a new reality in 2019 and beyond.