GVC calls for expanded UK gambling ad ban

25 April 2019

GVC Holdings has stepped up its responsible gambling efforts with a call to end all sportsbook broadcast advertising in the UK.

The operator, which was the first to publicise its support for a pre-watershed advertising ban in October 2018, has now thrown its support behind extending this ban to any time of day. This would include live and repeated sporting events, with an exemption for horse racing.

However GVC has suggested allowing campaigns promoting responsible and safer gambling. This, it says, should be limited to one advertising slot per commercial break.

The operator said that the forthcoming pre-watershed, whistle-to-whistle advertising ban, due to be implemented from the start of the 2019-20 football season in August this year, does not go far enough. This ban was agreed by the industry late last year and added to the Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising by the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) in December.

“Whilst the vast majority of our customers enjoy our products responsibly, it is high time that the industry did more to protect its customers from potential harm,” GVC chief executive Kenny Alexander (pictured) explained. "As the UK’s largest gambling company, and owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, we at GVC are doing exactly that.

“I call on our industry peers to help us bring about an end to broadcast advertising which promotes sports-betting in the UK no matter the time of day.”

Alongside its calls for the broadcast advertising ban, GVC has announced a series of new initiatives to tackle gambling related harm, as part of its ongoing Changing for the Bettor corporate social responsibility drive.

Launched in January this year, the Changing for the Bettor initiative will see the operator invest in responsible gaming technology, support research and introduce new, voluntary controls across the business to ensure it operates in a fair and sustainable manner.

Four new initiatives will be launched, with a shirt sponsorship and perimeter advertising ban the most eye-catching. This sees the operator commit to ending all football shirt sponsorship deals in the UK, and banning all advertising on pitchside hoardings. It aims to allow fans to watch live sport without any inducements to bet, and is calling on other operators, and UK football authorities, to adopt the measures.

GVC will also increase its investment in research, education and treatment. It was the first - and to date, only - operator to commit to doubling its spending to 0.2% of UK gross gaming revenue in 2019, and has now committed to raising this to 1% of GGR by 2022. This will see it invest ten times the current minimum requirement.

The operator will look to provide more funding to problem gambling treatment, establishing an independent trust to make charitable contributions to treatment centres. Manchester’s Leon House centre will be the first establishment to receive funding from the trust.

Finally, it will make the GamBan software, founded by the team behind the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, available free of charge to individuals showing signs of developing problem gambling habits. This allows players to block access to all gambling sites in the UK via a single portal.

“Increasing investment in research, education and treatment ten-fold by 2022, funding treatment centres and using technology to intervene before a problem develops, alongside our existing behavioural analytics, brings to life our commitment to be the most trusted and enjoyable betting operator in the world,” Alexander said.

“The industry should and can do more to protect the vulnerable, and today’s announcement demonstrates GVC’s commitment to delivering on that.”

These new initiatives follow previous measures taken as part of the Changing for the Bettor campaign, including investing $5m (£3.9m/€4.5m) in a responsible gaming study in partnership with Harvard Medical School. The campaign’s findings will be used to launch a global responsible gambling ad campaign.

GVC has also agreed to provide funding to help GamCare roll out a youth outreach programme across the UK and partnered EPIC Risk Management, which will advise the operator on best practice for interacting with problem gamblers.