TV and Radio Gambling Ads Stop for Lockdown

Gambling firms in the UK are to withdraw all TV and radio advertising for the remaining duration of the coronavirus lockdown. The Betting and Gaming Council, an organization that represents 90% of the industry, has confirmed that its members have agreed to the voluntary measure for at least six weeks. The ad ban addresses growing concerns for Britons who face increased gambling risks during social isolation.

Someone points a remote at a TV showing a sports game, with beer and crisps.

BGC members won’t air gambling ads on TV or radio until at least June 5th. ©JESHOOTS.COM/Pexels

Protecting Public from Gambling Harms

The Betting and Gaming Council, an industry standards body representing the UK’s bookmakers, casinos and betting services, has led companies to take up the voluntary measure. This follows mounting criticism of operators’ behavior from campaigners since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This major announcement by our members will result in the removal of half of all product advertising on TV and radio. I hope now that other major gambling operators like the National Lottery follow our lead.”

Before this announcement, there had actually been a drop in advertising spend. Sport and casino advertisements are thought to have dropped by 10%, as event cancellations have reduced punters’ wagering opportunities. Online revenue has dropped by 30%, while overall member revenue has seen a 60% decline.

“There hasn’t been an explosion in people betting online as some had predicted – in fact, the opposite is true with total revenue down by up to 60 per cent. Overall gambling levels have also fallen significantly as a result of betting shops and casinos closing and the suspension of live sport. And whilst advertising levels on sports and casino are also down, again contrary to some assertions, we recognize that removing product advertising will act as a further safeguard during COVID-19.”Michael Dugher, Chief Executive, Betting and Gaming Council

According to the BGC direct marketing, through SMS, email and social media, has also seen a reduction. However, this kind of advertising will be allowed to continue for the time being. The usual TV and radio advertising from gambling firms now face the choice of being replaced with safer gambling messages, or being removed entirely.

Advertising slots can also be donated to charities, much like Jackpotjoy has already done. Earlier this month, it gave up its sponsorship slot for ITV’s talk show ‘Loose Women’, opening up the space for domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid. Gamesys Group, which runs the Jackpotjoy bingo brand, also made a donation of £200,000 to support the charity’s chat service.

While it is remains uncertain how much longer the UK lockdown will go on for, gambling operators have agreed to stop airing their ads on TV and radio for at least the next six weeks. Operators have until May 7th to action the change, which will be in place provisionally until June 5th. The ad ban will only be reviewed once lockdown restrictions are relaxed, and until then will apply 24/7.

However, the BGC’s voluntary measures do not necessarily mean that viewers will see an end to televised gambling ads. Members of the BGC are only responsible for about half of all gambling ads aired on British TV and radio. The remainder comes from the National Lottery, society lotteries and bingo operators.

“We are determined to do everything we can to protect customers potentially at risk during this lockdown period and beyond – and we are determined to drive the high standards that the public expect from us. I hope others follow our lead.”

It doesn’t look like the National Lottery will pull its ads from TV and radio any time soon though. A spokesman for Camelot, which runs the lottery, justified its position. “Every time someone plays the National Lottery, they are contributing to UK good causes – raising, on average, £30m each week. This is even more vital during this time when hundreds of millions of pounds of lottery money is being made available to help the country respond to, and recover from, the Covid-19 crisis.”

Ten Pledges to Raise Standards

Withdrawing gambling ads from TV and radio is just the latest measure to come from the Betting and Gaming Council. Last month, it released a series of ten pledges for members to adhere to during COVID-19. Building on the Safer Gambling Commitments it launched with last November, these ten pledges have been created to raise standards and protect consumers during the virus outbreak.

Some of the pledges include increasing safer gambling messaging, promoting deposit limits and stepping up interventions for those who exhibit increased gambling patterns. Through these pledges, the BGC is emphasizing the importance of protecting vulnerable customers during this time of crisis.

“Although gambling levels have dropped during the COVID crisis, our commitment to safer gambling is being stepped up. It is important that we help our customers stay safe and in control of their gambling during these difficult times. That’s why BGC members have developed a 10 pledge action plan that will help govern members throughout this crisis.”

There has been considerable concern for those affected by gambling harms during the lockdown. Earlier this month, MPs called for a freeze on advertising, requesting that the industry take steps to protect customers. MP for Mid Worcestershire and Culture Minister, Nigel Huddleston wrote to five of the UK’s largest online operators, asking them to raise standards.

While news of the ad ban will come as a relief to campaigners, some critics say that the gambling industry should have acted faster. Chair of the Gambling Related Harm APPG, MP Carolyn Harris, has been vocal about the impact of social isolation on vulnerable people since the virus outbreak began.

“I welcome today’s decision but I wish it could have been made on day one of the lockdown, rather than six weeks down the line. The damage already done is hard to comprehend. It’s vital that this is extended to all gambling advertising on all mediums throughout this pandemic”

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