Sky CEO calls for action on gambling advertising online

10 December 2018

Sky CEO Stephen van Rooyen has claimed the gambling industry's plans for a ‘whistle to whistle’ ban on advertising during all sports broadcasts will do little to improve consumer protection standards. 

He said the move would simply shift advertising investment online, where there was less regulation and lower standards of customer protection.

In an op ed for The Times newspaper, Van Rooyen (pictured) said the voluntary ban on advertising that is likely to be announced by Remote Gambling Association (RGA) members this week will have little impact on levels of gambling. He pointed out that the industry spends more than four times as much on online advertising as it does on TV ads.

Last month a report by Regulus Partners revealed that TV advertising accounted for just 15% of the industry's £1.56bn (€1.78bn/$1.99bn) ad spend in 2017, compared to the £747m invested online.

Van Rooyen, formerly Sky’s chief marketing and digital officer, argued that the mooted ban would lead to further marketing spend simply switching from TV advertising, which is heavily regulated to protect minors, to online, where no such controls exist.

“If the RGA and gambling companies are serious about protecting vulnerable gamblers, then they should start by looking at where they spend the most money, what has the least level of regulation and where there is most evidence of harm: the online world,” he writes.

“If the RGA plan is implemented, then spend would simply shift even further online, with smartphones, tablets and computers targeted with even greater precision. This doesn’t feel like a good outcome for anyone except gambling firms and online tech platforms; the same platforms who by avoiding their tax commitments deny government the funds that society needs.”

Van Rooyen called for politicians to look at advertising rules “in a more meaningful way and ensure that the same rules for advertising in the offline world apply online.”

Sky has already committed to limiting the number of gambling ads to one per commercial break, from the start of the 2019-20 football season. The broadcaster will also roll out AdSmart technology to give customers the option to block gambling advertising from 2020.

Online advertising is covered by the CAP Code, while TV advertising is regulated by the BCAP Code, both of which are administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Both codes are designed primarily “to protect under-18s and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by advertising that features or promotes gambling” and have similar rules, such as a ban on people under 25 promoting gambling.

The most significant difference between the two codes is that broadcast ads must be cleared in advance by Clearcast, the non-governmental organisation.