Are Children in the UK Exposed to Too Many Gambling Ads?

Publish: 12.08.2018
Kids in the UK could be getting exposed to gambling and sports betting advertisements at a very young age, and many industry heavyweights consider this as inappropriate. They have also called on the government to act on it. In fact, Labour is now batting for a government crackdown on gambling ads. They call the ads ‘out of control.’

Advertising for gambling entities is permitted before 9 pm in the UK, given that the ads are relayed during sporting events. Australia doesn’t allow such backdoor passages to the industry and Italy has a complete ban on these ads.

William Hill chief executive Philip Bowcock said that the industry needs some sort of change, but the government must take the lead in doing so. He also said that the government should step up and conduct serious discussions about it. Previously, Bowcock had said that some type of review of curb on gambling advertising would be welcome.

A similar sentiment came from Paddy Power Betfair, which claims to support regulations that limit pre-watershed TV advertising so young children can be protected. Their chief executive Peter Jackson also said that the industry would not be able to self-regulate so government action would be essential. He claimed that responsible operators might follow this self-regulation, but the less responsible ones could continue using the loopholes.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) said in a recent report that it is not looking forward to restricting TV ads as it doesn’t have enough evidence of the harm they cause. Critics suggest that the DCMS hasn’t done a comprehensive study of the impact of gambling ads in vulnerable groups, like children. GambleAware, a charity is preparing such detailed research, but their findings will not be available for another year.

Interestingly, industry heavyweights are in favor of the regulations while the government is shying away from the action. Chief executive of Hippodrome Casino in London, Simon Thomas said that the concern about children getting exposed to these ads is real, especially when they are linked to high profile sporting events and equally popular sportspersons. He added that the threshold of risk should be brought lower for kids.

Deputy leader of Labour Tom Watson praised the united stance of the gambling industry over their social responsibility, which admits that their adverts could cause some issues with children if not taken seriously by lawmakers. He said that gambling ads in sporting events have become out of control and young adults and kids are becoming their targets. He also bashed the government for not taking appropriate action and basing their decision on outdated data.

On a practical level, Paddy Power and William Hill have nothing to lose if such strict regulation is brought into practice. It is the smaller firms that will have to face the consequences of such a crackdown. It would also be a problem for broadcasters like ITV and Sky who get big revenues from these ads.