UK gambling giants to discuss voluntary ad crackdown

20 November 2018

The UK’s leading gambling operators will today (Tuesday) meet to discuss a range of new voluntary restrictions on advertising, which could see the end of in-play odds being displayed on TV.

Industry sources have confirmed to iGamingBusiness.com that the board of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) will discuss a range of changes to the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) advertising code later today amid growing calls for a government-led crackdown.

Among the measures to be discussed are a total ban on pre-watershed advertising - with no exception for sports broadcasts - and banning ads promoting in-play odds.

The RGA members, which include the likes of William Hill, GVC, The Stars Group and Paddy Power Betfair, will also debate whether to restrict gambling ads to one slot per commercial break.

The association was unwilling to be drawn on the exact changes that could be discussed at the meeting, aside from confirming the potential enhancements and additions would be discussed.

"At this stage it would be wrong to speculate on the outcome of the review, but we are all very mindful of the public concerns that have been expressed about the amount of sports’ betting advertising that takes place on television," RGA social responsibility and regulatory affairs manager Stella Dalton said.

While the prospect of such controls being introduced across the industry may appear radical, a number of similar restrictions are already set to be introduced or have been proposed.

For example, UK broadcaster Sky last month announced plans to limit gambling ads to one slot per commercial break from the start of the 2019-20 Premier League season. From 2020, all Sky subscribers will also have the option to have their set top boxes replace gambling ads with alternative commercials.

GVC, owner of the Ladbrokes, Coral, bwin and Sportingbet brands, has spoken out in favour of a ban on gambling ads being shown around sports broadcasts before the 9PM watershed, as part of a range of corporate social responsibility measures announced in October this year.

The RGA has also voiced its suppport for new controls on advertising. In response to the UK Gambling Commission’s review of online gaming, published in March this year, the association said that it had committed to backing new restrictions on operator ads.

The discussions will take place against a backdrop of increasing pressure from parliament and the public to introduce stricter regulations for the UK gambling industry. This has already seen the government forced into an embarrassing climb-down on its decision to implement a reduction in maximum fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) stakes to £2 from October 2019.

The decision sparked an outcry and the resignation of Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch, and an amendment to force the implementation date forward to April 2019 attracted support from all political parties. This ultimately led to the government agreeing to bring the implementation forward in order to avoid having its 2019 Finance Bill voted down.