GB operators to stop audiovisual advertising from 7 May

27 April 2020

Members of UK industry body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) have agreed to voluntarily stop all television and radio advertising while the country remains under lockdown to limit the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

BGC members will cease all audiovisual advertising by 7 May, with the measure to remain in place until at least 5 June. The restriction will only be reviewed when lockdown measures are relaxed.

“This major announcement by our members will result in the removal of half of all product advertising on TV and radio,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said. “I hope now that other major gambling operators like the National Lottery follow our lead.”

Email and social media advertising, however, will continue, but the Council said its members have “significantly” reduced the volume of advertisements through these channels.

Dugher said the pause on advertising comes despite the fact that gambling has decreased since lockdown started.

“We have been working closely with our member companies since this crisis began to monitor the impact of betting and gaming,” Dugher said. “There hasn’t been an explosion in people betting online as some had predicted - in fact, the opposite is true with total revenue down by up to 60%.

"Overall gambling levels have also fallen significantly as a result of betting shops and casinos closing and the suspension of live sport.

“And while advertising levels on sports and casino are also down, again contrary to some assertions, we recognise that removing product advertising will act as a further safeguard during covid-19.”

The decision has been taken in the wake of the BGC pledging to step up responsible gambling messaging last week, following a request from Minister for sport, tourism and heritage Nigel Huddleston. Huddleston wrote to the assocation and the UK's five leading bookmakers, requesting the industry implement a series of new controls, many of which had already been outlined in a ten-point plan to keep players safe during Covid-19, which was published in March. 

That plan saw BGC members agree to increase safer gambling messages across all sites and in direct communications with customers. Members also agreed to step up interventions if customers increase time and money spent beyond pre-crisis patterns, and actively promote deposit limits.

These moves, however, were criticised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling-Related Harm, arguing that each part of the plan was “weak” and “[fell] well-short of what is required”.

Dugher said the latest change, on top of the 10 pledge action plan, shows the BGC's commitment to safer gambling.

“From day one of this crisis we have sought to protect customers potentially at risk, including announcing stepping up safer gambling measures as part of our ten pledges for covid-19 in March,” Dugher said. “This latest move by the regulated industry further underlines our commitment to safer betting and gaming with many people cut off and feeling anxious.

“Throughout this crisis, as the new standards body, the BGC has worked very closely with the government. Ministers and the regulator all deserve credit for their steadfast and consistent determination to have an evidence-led approach and to rightly call for higher standards.

"There will always been alarmist noises from anti-gambling prohibitionists who just want to grab headlines, but it is this serious, constructive and evidence-led approach by the BGC’s regulated members that has resulted in this further major change."