Voluntary pre-9pm “whistle to whistle” betting advertising ban announced

Just one week after the Remote Gambling Association was forced to deny BBC reports that its members had agreed a “whistle to whistle” sports betting advertising ban, it has been announced today by the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (“IGRG”) that a voluntary such ban on pre-9pm television sports betting advertising (starting 5 minutes before the event begins and ending 5 minutes after it finishes) will take effect in the summer of 2019.

This voluntary ban (to be embodied in a revised Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising) will also extend to betting advertisements around highlights shows and re-runs and include live streaming of sports events to mobile and other devices, but it will not extend to advertisements for horse and greyhound racing.

The IGRG press release can be downloaded below.

John Hagan, Chair of IGRG, is reported as saying:

Today the gambling industry is responding positively to public concerns about the amount of gambling advertising on television before the watershed. We believe that these new voluntary TV measures, which have been approved by the trade associations representing every sector of the gambling industry, will drastically reduce the amount of gambling advertising on television and they complement the strict controls that already govern gambling companies around advertising on digital platforms. 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.

Neil McArthur, Chief Executive of the UK Gambling Commission has welcomed the announcement, saying:

At our annual Raising Standards Conference last month I highlighted the need for the industry to act together in response to public concerns about gambling advertising. Today’s announcement is a significant step forward in demonstrating that this is an industry that is starting to listen to its customers and the wider public. 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.

It has also been welcomed by Jeremy Wright MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who has said:

Gambling firms banning advertising on TV during live sport is a welcome move and I am pleased that the sector is stepping up and responding to public concern. It is vital children and vulnerable people are protected from the threat of gambling-related harm. Companies must be socially responsible.

In his response to the announcement, Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, has repeated a warning sounded by others within the last week about the need to address online gambling advertising, saying:

This is an important first step in recognising that the proliferation of gambling adverts has got completely out of hand. It was imperative for the industry to accept there is a problem and they have done that today. The next step will have to be addressing the gambling adverts that children and vulnerable problem gamblers see online.

Anna Hemmings, CEO at GamCare, has commented:

For many people gambling is not a harmful activity, but for some it can become a serious problem. Many of our service users have told us that the volume of gambling advertisements on television and elsewhere is not helpful to them in maintaining their recovery, so the news that gambling advertising during live sporting events will be reduced is welcome. We would also welcome more research and discussion around the potential impacts gambling advertising can have on vulnerable people so that safeguards can continue to develop and protect people from future harms.

In relation to Anna Hemmings’ above comment concerning research, a research project commissioned by GambleAware that examines the effects of marketing and advertising on children, young people and other vulnerable people is scheduled for completion in Q2 2019. The RGSB research brief for that project can also be downloaded below.

UPDATE: The updated 5th edition of the Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising will come into force on 1 August 2019 and can be downloaded below, as can the IGRG’s explanation of the changes.

Download article PDF: IGRG Press Release 13.12.18