The CEO of Sky, UK & Ireland, Stephen van Rooyen, has spoken out about voluntary plans to ban gambling advertisements during live sports on TV, arguing that the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) should look closer to online gambling which is “largely unregulated.”
An inconvenient truth
Van Rooyen’s comments were published early this morning in The Times. His remarks follow the announcement from the RGA, which includes the likes of Paddy Power and Ladbrokes, which has come to an agreement to stop showing gambling adverts during live sporting events.
Known as the “whistle to whistle” ad ban, it comes amid increasing pressure for more to be done regarding the level of gambling advertising during live events. However, according to van Rooyen, while this sounds like a “reasonable plan… the facts paint a very different picture”.
“What the RGA has failed to address is the inconvenient truth that more than 80% of the gambling industry’s advertising is in the largely unregulated online world,” he added.
Citing data from GambleAware, an independent charity in Britain tasked with minimizing gambling-related harm, van Rooyen points out that money spent on gambling advertising online is five times that of TV. On top of that, he notes, is the fact that money put toward promoting gambling on social media has more than tripled in the past three years.
“If the RGA and gambling companies are serious about protecting vulnerable gamblers, then they should start by looking at where they spend the most money, what has the least level of regulation and where there is most evidence of harm: the online world,” van Rooyen notes.
Last month, Sky announced that it would be reducing the number of gambling-related advertisements to one per commercial break. According to a report from The Telegraph, up to four betting adverts are shown during each commercial break, with slots during live sports attracting “in play” betting.
Not only that, but from 2020, Sky viewers will be able to exclude gambling ads from commercial breaks completely.
Even though self-imposed gambling restrictions are likely to cost Sky tens of millions of pounds in annual revenue, van Rooyen believes that a “proportionate and responsible limit” to gambling advertising is the way forward.
At the same time, though, he notes that TV advertising is a “highly regulated” environment, with measures in place to ensure that minors aren’t exposed to inappropriate advertising. In his opinion, the online arena doesn’t have these measures in place. Consequently, he believes that if the RGA introduces its measures, then money would be further spent on online advertising.
He added: “This doesn’t feel like a good outcome for anyone except gambling firms and online tech platforms; the same platforms who by avoiding their tax commitments deny government the funds that society needs.”
A disparity in regulation
The issue of gambling advertisements during live sporting events remains a contentious one for many.
Measures, however, are being taken. Australia, for instance, has banned gambling ads during sports events, yet this only applies five minutes before the game starts and five minutes after. It’s a move designed to protect the young and those vulnerable to gambling.
According to Lord Chadlington, a member of the UK’s Conservative Party, more should be done. He remarkeds back in October in an article he wrote for Parliament’s magazine, The House, that he supported measures to see adverts banned an hour before and an hour after sporting events.
Making reference to the whistle-to-whistle ban in the Labour party consultation paper, Chadlington argued that viewers were “overwhelmed” by 90 minutes of advertising during the 2018 World Cup.
He wrote at the time: “Is it therefore surprising that we now have 2m people at risk of joining the estimated 430,000 problems gamblers already in the UK?”
Yet, while more needs to be done to tackle the issue of gambling and the exposure to young and vulnerable people, van Rooyen thinks that there is a “disparity of regulation between TV and online platforms”.
He thinks the answer lies in the fact that politicians should look for more meaningful ways to ensure that the same rules applied to TV are applied to online gambling.