UK

The ban on TV gambling advertisements during live sporting events has been confirmed by the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG), a collective body for the five main gambling trade associations in the UK.

Announced last week, the IGRG implemented major changes to its Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising (‘the code’) as a part of the code’s annual review process. The changes to the code include a whistle-to-whistle ban on all TV gambling and betting advertisements during pre-watershed live sport.

These measures which will be republished in January are expected to come into force six months later during the summer. Once the ban comes into force, there will be no advertisements during live sports events before 9 pm. Adverts will also be banned starting from five minutes before the event begins and extending five minutes after the game is over. The ban will also apply to online and mobile live-streamed sports events. However, advertisements on electronic boardings at stadiums will not be affected.

The restrictions also cover highlight shows and re-runs of sporting events aired before the event.

Horse racing and greyhound racing, however, are exempted from the restrictions due to their dependency on wagering.Online casino games and slot machines, including Luck Stars free spins, are already covered by the Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising and cannot be advertised before the 9.00pm watershed.

“We are announcing a ‘whistle to whistle’ ban on gambling advertising during all televised live sport before the watershed, with the exception of horseracing and greyhound racing,” said John Haga, Chair of IGRG.

“We believe that this is itself a watershed moment as we strive to provide the ever, safer gambling environment which gambling consumers and the wider public expect, and which is so important to the future success and sustainability of our industry,” he added.

The code which was first introduced in 2007, already includes additional measures such as preventing online casino advertising before the 9pm watershed, stopping gambling sponsorships appearing on children’s merchandise, and requiring all gambling adverts on television to carry a responsible gambling message.

Mixed Reactions

As per a BBC report, UK’s online betting companies bet365, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power have voluntarily agreed to such measures which were first reported earlier this month. However, the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) dismissed the report and said “there is no agreement on any proposals” to iGamingBusiness.com.

UK Gambling Commission’s chief executive Neil McArthur who previously called on gambling operators to work together in response to public concerns regarding gambling advertising described the announcement as “a significant step” and praised the industry which is starting to listen to customers’ concern.

“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,” McArthur added.

Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party who had earlier called for gambling advertising ban in September, now wants online advertising to be the next focus.

However, Stephen van Rooyen, Chief Executive Office of Sky UK Ltd believes that the betting companies will instead spend more on online advertising and other mediums.

“Yet again, the gambling industry are ignoring the fact they spend five times more on online marketing than they do on TV,” Rooyen said to BBC.

“By cutting TV ads, they’ll simply spend more online, bombarding people’s smartphones, tablets and social media feeds with even more gambling ads. A proportionate and responsible limit to gambling advertising across all media is the right thing to do,” he further said.