The regulator and gambling operators in the United Kingdom have come to an agreement that means no gambling ads will be shown during live sports events.
Operators have agreed voluntarily to this measure and are calling it a “whistle to whistle” ad ban.
This deal is between the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), which represents leading operators such as Paddy Power and Ladbrokes, and the regulatory authority – the UK Gambling Commission.
It is a move that has been a long time coming, as there has been extensive criticism with regards to the amount of gambling advertising during sporting events.
Background to the ban
A group of MPs has been pushing for this ban for some time now. A major concern is that young people have constant exposure to pro-gambling messages everywhere they look.
While the companies do not set out intentionally to target underage people, it is an inevitable by-product of targeting sports enthusiasts. Live sporting events, in particular, are a popular area for gambling companies to advertise their wares.
During the FIFA World Cup in summer 2018, more than 90 minutes of gambling adverts were shown during games and this is seen as normalizing betting.
Promotion comes in many different forms, including kit sponsors, billboard advertising, stadium naming rights and television ads. The majority of teams in the Premier League and Championship in English football have gambling sponsors.
Some of the most popular players even appear in gambling ads. This leads to confusing messages for young people, who see their heroes pushing a pro-gambling message. It starts to become a normal everyday activity in their developing brains and can lead to increasing levels of problem gambling.
A recent report by the UKGC shows that as many as 430,000 adults in Britain are problem gamblers.
An even more worrying finding was that about 450,000 schoolchildren gamble on a weekly basis. Of these, 70,000 are at risk gamblers and another 55,000 are already problem gamblers. This is, of course, a very worrying trend that needs addressing.
Other nations have brought in similar bans and curtailments on gambling advertising, such as Italy, Belgium and Australia. Thus, the UK is not the first nation to strike such a deal.
The small print
There has been a lot of political pressure on this issue. The major gambling companies have held extensive discussions on this issue. They finally came to an agreement for no ads to be shown during a defined period in advance and after the broadcasting of a game.
The Labour Party already was proposing such a measure. It is happy with the move because of the current crisis levels of problem gambling.
The shadow secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Tom Watson, said: “There was clear public support for these restrictions and I’m glad that the Remote Gambling Association has taken its responsibilities seriously and listened.”
The new rule it applies to all games that begin before 9pm. The RGA says that it was aware of the public’s concern, which led to the agreement being made.
Which sports are affected?
One of the sports that will not have to comply with the new restriction is horse racing. This is because the commercial aspects are vital to the sport’s wellbeing.
However, the main area where there will be changes will be for football. Many major stakeholders in the game will now lose out. For example, broadcasters will lose lucrative advertising revenue.
Gambling companies will lose valuable advertising spaces to target their demographic – enthusiastic sports fans. The ban could also lead to a decrease in the number of gambling sponsors for teams playing in the top divisions in England.
Currently, almost 60% of the teams in the two top divisions use gambling companies for their kit sponsors. The shirt sponsorship works well when paired with television advertising.
The precedent has now also been set for clamping down on gambling advertising in sports. There could be a move in the near future to get rid of the ability of teams to accept kit sponsorship by gambling operators.
Final approval still has to be given by the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRC) before the ban will come into place officially. This could happen in the very near future, even before the end of this year.