Confirmed: UK gambling firms agree ‘whistle-to-whistle’ sports ad ban

Hits: 1280

Responsible gambling group announces ‘major changes’ to pre-watershed televised sport.

The UK gambling industry has agreed to a ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban on betting adverts during live televised sports before the watershed.

The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) has confirmed that major changes to its code for socially responsible advertising would also include an end to commercials during highlights shows and re-runs as well as sponsorship of sports programming.

These measures are expected to be introduced during the summer of 2019, though exclude horse and greyhound racing programmes due to the commercial value the sports place on gambling.

"Today the gambling industry is responding positively to public concerns about the amount of gambling advertising on television before the watershed,” said IGRG’s chairman John Hagan.

“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.”

Several gambling companies were reported to have agreed a deal with the Remote Gambling Association last week – though the trade group, which had facilitated discussions between the UK’s gambling companies, claimed that talks had not been finalised.

UK broadcasters warned that the value of TV sports rights contracts will decline if proposals for gambling advert bans are introduced, according to a report in the Times on Monday.

Stephen van Rooyen, Sky UK and Ireland chief executive, said that gambling companies should also review their spend on online advertising if they are serious about protecting vulnerable gamblers.

Jeremy Wright, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, welcomed the agreement and said that he was pleased to see the gambling sector “stepping up and responding to public concerns”.

There are around 430,000 Britons who can be described as ‘problem gamblers’, according to a report by the Gambling Commission. Despite the IGRG changes to televised adverts, the majority of soccer clubs in Premier League and the Championship – England’s top-two divisions – still have shirt sponsors with gambling companies.

“For many people gambling is not a harmful activity, but for some it can become a serious problem,” said Anna Hemmings, chief executive of GamCare, the UK gambling support group.

“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.”

The IGRG, a collective body for the five key gambling trade associations in the UK, intends to republish its code in January with the changes to be enforced six months later.

“[This] 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,” said Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission.

“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.”