The Betting and Gaming Council has today (27 April 2020) announced that as soon as possible but, in any event no later than Thursday of next week, 7 May 2020, all BGC members will – for a period of 6 weeks and at a minimum until 5 June 2020 – voluntarily remove all of their TV and radio gaming advertising in the UK during the COVID-19 lockdown.
It goes on to:
- confirm that “this voluntary change will apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will only be reviewed when lockdown restrictions are relaxed”,
- state that “BGC members currently account for around 50 per cent of all gambling advertising on TV and radio” and
- express the hope that “the remaining major TV and radio gambling operators like the National Lottery and society lotteries (which account for 30 per cent) and other bingo operators follow our lead”.
Accompanied by the above illustration, the BGC announcement reads as follows:
BGC members to remove TV and radio gaming advertising during COVID-19 lockdown
The UK’s largest betting and gaming operators in the regulated sector are set to voluntarily remove all TV and radio gaming advertising during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), the industry standards body which represents betting shops, online betting and gaming, bingo and casinos, has agreed the voluntary removal of all gaming product advertising as a further part of its response to the COVID-19 lockdown, despite a drop in advertising spend and the volume of TV sport and casino advertisements dropping by up to 10 per cent.
Direct marketing (via social media, emails or SMS) by BGC members has also significantly dropped and BGC members commit to further increases in safer gambling messaging online. Existing TV and radio advertising slots will be replaced by safer gambling messages, donated to charities or removed from broadcast where contracts permit.
This is the latest in a series of measures introduced by BGC members to safeguard customers during the COVID-19 crisis. Last month the standards body, the BGC, introduced a 10 pledge action plan which set out the standards expected of its members during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This further measure comes despite a drop in online revenue of up to 30 per cent and total member revenue down by up to 60 per cent.
BGC members currently account for around 50 per cent of all gambling advertising on TV and radio. The BGC now hopes that the remaining major TV and radio gambling operators like the National Lottery and society lotteries (which account for 30 per cent) and other bingo operators follow our lead.
All operators will look to implement this change as rapidly as possible but no later than Thursday 7th May. The commitment will remain in force for 6 weeks and at a minimum until 5th June 2020. This voluntary change will apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will only be reviewed when lockdown restrictions are relaxed.
BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said:
“From day one of this crisis we have sought to protect customers potentially at risk, including announcing stepping up safer gambling measures as part of our ten pledges for covid-19 in March. This latest move by the regulated industry further underlines our commitment to safer betting and gaming with many people cut off and feeling anxious.
We have been working closely with our member companies since this crisis began to monitor the impact of betting and gaming. 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 recognise that removing product advertising will act as a further safeguard during covid-19.
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.
Throughout this crisis, as the new standards body, the BGC has worked very closely with the Government. Ministers and the regulator all deserve credit for their steadfast and consistent determination to have an evidence-led approach and to rightly call for higher standards. There will always been alarmist noises from anti-gambling prohibitionists who just want to grab headlines, but it is this serious, constructive and evidence-led approach by the BGC’s regulated members that has resulted in this further major change.
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”.
In all probability, this development is a direct response to the call last week by DCMS Minister Nigel Huddleston MP for the gambling sector to do all it can to tackle any heightened risk of problem gambling during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Read literally, today’s BGC announcement indicates a cessation by BGC members of solely gaming product advertising (i.e. advertising of casino and bingo products), which would potentially leave open the door for betting advertising on TV and radio.
It also remains to be seen whether this voluntary cessation will lead to a marked upsurge in gaming product advertising online.
- On 28 April 2020, DCMS Minister Nigel Huddleston MP tweeted: “We must work together to protect the most vulnerable from gambling harm. I appreciate the moves by the gambling sector to recognise the heightened risks of problem gambling during the coronavirus lockdown”.
- On 10 May 2020, The Guardian published an article entitled “Gambling firms’ social messages are ‘thinly veiled’ adverts, say MPs”, in which it reported that the Gambling Related Harm APPG had written a letter to Nigel Huddleston stating that TV ads screened since the 7th May deadline “are clearly just forms of advertising under the thinly veiled guise of a social responsibility message” and alleging that the BGC’s “alleged strategy was a demonstration of the failure of self-regulation by the industry”, calling on the government to intervene.
- On 5 June 2020, in an article for PoliticsHome, Michael Dugher confirmed that, whilst the sector must continue its commitment to safer gambling, the above restrictions on TV and radio gaming advertising have come to an end.