Live Sports Ad Ban Gains Backing of Major UK Betting Firms

Live Sports Betting Ban

The UK is one of the world’s biggest gambling markets, but as the industry has grown so has the number of problem gamblers in the country, many of whom are minors. In an effort to address the worrying trend, the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), a trade association whose members include such major players as William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and Bet365, has agreed in principal to a “whistle-to-whistle” ban on gambling advertising during live sports events.

Children Bombarded With Gambling Ads

The UK has 66 million residents. However, 430,000 of them, or around 6.5% of the population, suffer from gambling addiction. Furthermore, another two million are believed to be at risk of developing a gambling related problem. Needless to say, this has prompted politicians and interests groups to appeal to the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) for urgent action.

One of the areas that has attracted the most criticism is the level of gambling advertisements that are shown during live sports games, which are seen as having a particularly negative impact on children. During the 2018 FIFA World Cup, for instance, the Guardian published an expose revealing that out of the eight and a half hours of adverts shown during the tournament in the UK, 90 minutes were of gambling related products. This is equivalent to 17% of all World Cup commercial breaks, and as Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, later commented:

“One of the only downsides to this brilliant World Cup has been the bombardment of gambling advertising on TV and social media that thousands of children will have been exposed to.”

Yes to Advertising Restrictions

Against this backdrop, the Remote Gambling Association have now proposed a blanket ban on betting advertisements during live sports events, as well as those games that begin before the 9pm watershed and finish after that time.

The proposal is scheduled to be discussed next week at a meeting which includes the five major gambling industry associations, including the RGA, the Bingo Association, the National Casino Forum Association of British Bookmakers, and the British Amusement Catering Trade Association.

Despite being subject to debate and discussions, and having a number of detractors, the proposal is expected to be carried, according to a gambling industry senior figure. All being well, the ban should then be implemented within six months, and commenting upon the development, the source said:

“It would be a very brave company that would stick its head above the parapet in isolation.”

Shirt Sponsorships To Continue For Now

The RGA is also fielding a number of other proposals to improve the situation, but for now a ban on football shirt sponsorship by gambling firms is not being considered. While this is likely to render any advertising restrictions implemented less effective, at the same time such advertising is an important source of revenue for many of the soccer clubs in England’s top two divisions.

In fact, 9 of 20 clubs in the Premier League carry logos from gambling firms and online casinos on their shirts, increasing to an incredible 17 of 24 teams in the Championship. As Gambling Watch UK’s Professor Jim Orford explained to the Press Association Sport recently:

“This is worrying,. There is evidence that gambling is becoming ever more normalised, particularly among young people, so that increasingly betting is seen as part and parcel of following and supporting one’s favourite sport or team.”

RGA Initiative Welcomed

In the meantime, politicians and industry figures have haled the RGA’s latest move as a positive step in addressing rising levels of problem gambling in the UK. Jeremy Wright, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, for instance, complimented the RGA for taking a proactive stance in addressing concerns expressed by the general public. In addition, Sarah Hanratty, Chief Executive of the Senet Group, has welcomed the fact betting firms have now acknowledged levels of live sport advertising in the country are at untenable levels and need to be addressed.