UK TV Pre-Watershed Gambling Ad Ban To Start Next Summer

UK TV Pre-Watershed Gambling Ad Ban in 2019

At the start of December, a number of key players in the UK’s gambling industry said that they had agreed in principal to impose a ban on gambling commercials during live sporting events. Next year, that announcement is now set to become official policy of the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG), a trade association representing five trade bodies whose mission statement is to “share information and continue to develop, improve and promote best social responsibility practices” in the UK.

Whistle-to-Whistle Ban

Next summer, the industry will subsequently enforce a blanket ban on all TV gambling ads during live sport broadcasts before the 9pm watershed, with the exception of horse and greyhound racing. More specifically, the commercial ban will begin five minutes before the sporting event starts, and end five minutes after it finishes. This also mean that pre-watershed programs will no longer receive sponsorship deals from gambling firms. Highlight shows and repeats will be subject to the same ban, too, as will their counterparts on digital viewing formats.

Furthermore, all TV gambling adverts will be required to show a responsible gambling message, and/or a reference to throughout its duration. In addition, gambling sponsors will no longer appear on related merchandise targeting children, such as replica football shirts.

Watershed Moment For Industry

Commenting upon the far reaching development for the country’s gambling industry, IGRG Chairman John Hagan said:

“We believe that these new voluntary TV measures, which have been approved by the trade associations representing every sector of the gambling industry, will drastically reduce the amount of gambling advertising on television and they complement the strict controls that already govern gambling companies around advertising on digital platforms.”

Elaborating further, Hagan stated that the measures to be adopted highlighted the organizations commitment to provide an ever safer gambling environment for the public, as well as securing the “future success and sustainability” of the country’s gambling industry.

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UK Government Welcomes Move

Meanwhile, the UK government has welcomed the self-imposed policy to apply more stringent restrictions on gambling advertising. Jeremy Wright, state secretary for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), for instance, described it as a “welcome move”, and expressed his satisfaction that the sector was becoming more socially responsible, and taking greater care to protect children and vulnerable people from the threat of gambling-related harm.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has similarly backed the whistle-to-whistle gambling advertising ban, with its Chief Executive Neil McArthur commenting that it is a hugely positive development to see the industry taking heed of some of the issues highlighted by the annual Raising Standards Conference in November. Expressing his satisfaction that the gambling industry is finally starting to listen to its customers and the general public, McArthur added:

“Importantly, it also demonstrates the value of collaborating across companies and across sectors to make gambling fairer and safer. I hope that this can be used as a model for future industry action to reduce and prevent harm.”

Motivation For Move

A major motivations for the industry’s dramatic move is thought to be related to a previous failed campaign by the gambling industry to prevent the government reducing the maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100. After initially opposing restrictions on these machines, a wave of public opinion eventually led to their maximum stakes being slashed to a mere £2, with the reduction expected to take effect in April 2019.

After the announcement was made, Charles Ritchie, founder of the charity Gambling With Lives, commented that it represented the “first step in curbing some of the worst excesses of the industry.”

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