Labour Party Pledges Ban on Live Sports Gambling Ads

Labour Party Pledges Ban on Live Sports Gambling Ads

The United Kingdom’s Labour Party has come up with proposals to fight problem gambling, which it intends to enact if it wins the next election. The centerpiece of these plans is a ban on gambling advertisements during broadcasts of live sporting events.

About the Proposed Advertisement Rules

This new Labour anti-gambling platform was announced by its deputy leader, Tom Watson, pictured in the photo to the right of the party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Claiming that the existing government isn’t doing all it should to protect the country’s estimated 430,000 problem gamblers, he called for a whistle-to-whistle ban on ads related to gambling during sports broadcasts. Supposedly, this type of content triggers reckless betting behavior more than similar messages displayed long before a match has started or after it is over. Commenting on these proposed measures, Watson said:

“Problem gambling is Britain’s hidden epidemic and we must treat it as a public health emergency…We must also face up to the negative effect the explosion in gambling advertising has had and act accordingly.”

Australia an Inspiration

The Land Down Under has recently implemented a similar idea. In March, it prohibited media outlets from showing gambling ads on live sports broadcasts between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. At first, this rule only applied to television and radio stations, but it was later extended to cover internet video streaming sites also.

It’s likely that the success of the Australian experiment was, at least in part, responsible for the development of a comparable proposal by Labour leaders. Another impetus to action was the recent World Cup in Russia. More than 90 minutes of gambling ads appeared on ITV during its coverage of the tournament: more than for alcohol and fast food combined.

Credit Card Gambling to Be Ended?

Watson also called for an end to credit card transactions for gambling. What’s especially pernicious about this type of funding, in his view, is the fact that it’s a debt-based mechanism for betting. Other forms of deposits, like bank transfers and e-wallets, at least have the saving grace of only using funds that the owner already possesses.

According to the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), between 10 and 20 percent of all remote gaming is funded through credit cards. Thus, their elimination as a method of adding money to customer accounts could have a dramatic impact on profitability. However, the majority of this 10 to 20 percent value won’t cease to be used for gambling because most card holders would simply switch over to another payment channel. We could see crypto-currencies like Bitcoin gaining adoption as gamblers seek to evade the restrictions placed on them by politicians and bureaucrats.

SkyBet boss Richard Flint brought up an excellent point. He pointed out that research shows that it is those individuals who use multiple cards to gamble who are at especial risk of addiction. Therefore, he believes that resources should be directed toward identifying and helping these individuals rather than terminating all credit card deposits for everyone.

Other Steps

Besides restrictions on ads and credit cards, Labour envisions a whole series of moves that it would take to help problem gamblers. For instance, it would ask Premier League teams to terminate their sponsorship agreements with sports betting organizations. If they fail to do so voluntarily, legislation could be introduced to force them to comply.
A mandatory 1 percent tax on gross gaming revenue would fund research into addiction and related issues. Projections show that this levy could generate up to £140 million per annum as compared to the £10 million currently collected through voluntary donations by gaming firms.

People with bank accounts would be able to request that their banks block all gambling transactions under the new Labour rules.

Too Much Regulation?

On top of whatever laws Parliament passes, licensed gambling enterprises in the United Kingdom have to obey a massive list of directives from the Gambling Commission, Advertising Standards Authority, Competition and Markets Authority and other watchdog organizations. Not only are the burdens placed on legally operating companies sometimes challenging to comply with, but they seem to be steadily increasing.

For example, the Advertising Standards Authority tightened up the advertising rules again just this February, focusing especially on those adverts that seek to create a sense of urgency around betting. In September, the United Kingdom Gambling Commission set out new proposed policies about age and identity verification.

In May, the government approved of a reduction in the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2 although this decision must be ratified by Parliament before it takes effect, which is not expected to happen before 2019. This delay, welcomed by bookmakers as a little bit of breathing space, drew the wrath of Labour supporters who argue that the current Conservative government isn’t acting quickly enough to protect consumers.

An Opening for Black Market Sites?

All of these regulations place responsibilities on wagering companies, but on the other hand, licensure confers a wealth of benefits, like the ability to transact freely on the open market and the respectability that comes with having the government’s official seal of approval. Yet, the responsibilities seem to getting ever more taxing while the benefits appear to be staying the same or even decreasing.

There are many gray and black-market online gaming houses that have built up experience transacting in jurisdictions, like the United States and Australia, where their presence is not particularly welcomed by the authorities. Most of them gladly welcome Britons through their virtual doors although thus far, residents of the United Kingdom are mostly content with the existing roster of licensed gambling options. Should an over-restrictive business climate force many of their competitors to abandon the country, however, these savvy international operations would have no problem picking up additional U.K. market share. They would be able to do so without having to follow cumbersome rules or paying taxes, and so the entire attempt to safeguard vulnerable consumers through regulatory activity would inadvertently backfire.