Gambling Firms Should Be Forced to Display Health Warnings

Gambling Firms Should Be Forced to Display Health Warnings

A group of British politicians believe that the government is not doing enough to address public health issues concerning the country’s gambling industry.

Consequently, the cross-party body consisting of members of both the House of Lords and Commons are calling to have gambling advertisements given the same treatment as tobacco commercials, and be forced to show prominent health warnings highlighting the harmful rather than “fun” aspect of the pastime.

The group has further called for a gambling advertisement ban during live sporting events in order to prevent bookmakers from displaying their messages to young viewers before the 21:00 pm watershed.

A study released by the Gambling Commission last December found that 80% of 11-16-year-olds had been exposed to gambling commercials on TV, with the group, whose members include Labour’s shadow culture secretary Tom Watson and Conservative Party politician John Hayes, having criticized gambling operators for flouting the rules, stating that their responsibility to self-regulate and uphold social responsibility directives “is not working”.

Rise in Gambling Addiction

The UK is recognized as having one of the world’s most thriving gambling markets, and last financial year its industry generated a massive £13.7 billion in revenue. Nevertheless, great success has its price, which in this case involves the number of gambling addicts in the country increasing by a third to 430,000 people over just three years, rising to 2 million people once those at risk of developing a gambling problem are included.

Against this backdrop, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has been monitoring the industry carefully to ensure gambling operators adhere to strict regulatory guidelines and put the interests of their consumers first. In recent times this has involved leveling large fines against operators failing to protect problem gamblers, and recommendations to lower the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to just £2.

In-Game Ads and the Watershed

However, the group believes more still needs to be done to make gambling fairer and safer for consumers, and address the increasing number of problem gamblers in the UK. One of the targets of their attack includes in game” betting commercials, such as the ones run by Bet365 and featuring actor Ray Winstone, with the group calling for a widespread ban on gambling ads during live sporting events.

Thus far, in-game wagering has allowed operators to flaunt advertising before the watershed, but the proposed ban includes stopping gambling firms from advertising their products during live sporting events or before the 21:00 pm watershed via TV, billboards, or clothing sponsorship. This, they said, would go somewhere towards reducing the risks posed to young people, and those most at-risk from problem gambling.

Prominent Health Warnings

Recently, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced that from this summer onward gambling commercials will be required to display responsible gambling messages, with a safer gambling advertising campaign also set to be launched later this year. Conservative MP Tom Watson has welcomed the move, stating that gambling addiction is “Britain’s hidden epidemic,” and that it was high time that the issue was treated as a “public health crisis”. As a statement from the group he is a part of explains:

“A chief demand is to treat the gambling industry like big tobacco. Gambling advertising should be consistent with other types of addictive or harmful products to public health such as cigarette packs, by featuring clearly identifiable health warnings that cannot be absorbed into an advert’s overall design. The wording of gambling advertisements is a problem because words such as ‘win’ and ‘fun’ are emphasized rather than ‘harm’, thus normalizing the idea of gambling as a leisure pursuit rather than an addiction.”

Affiliate Marketing

In addition, the whole “affiliate marketing” industry has not been spared their concerns, with the group criticizing advertisements made to look like news articles and designed to direct people towards gambling sites and bookmakers. Also attacked were gambling tipsters earning commission by providing long-shot betting recommendations unlikely to pay off, with the group calling for those benefiting from such practices to have their gaming licenses revoked.

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