Sky commits to cutting betting ads

5 November 2018

UK pay-TV broadcaster Sky has pledged to limit the number of gambling adverts across its channels to a maximum of one per commercial break and will allow subscribers to block all betting and gaming advertising from their packages from 2020.

Current rules allow for up to four gambling ads per commercial break and include a high percentage of ‘in-play’ ads based around placing bets on sports events that are shown by Sky channels.

However, Sky has pledged to show no more than one advert per break from the start of the 2019-20 Premier League football season, which will kick off next August.

According to the Telegraph newspaper, the revamped restrictions will apply to all channels for which Sky sells adverting slots, including commercial broadcaster Channel 5. The rules will cover all forms of gaming such as sports betting, bingo and online poker.

From 2020, Sky customers will have the option to exclude gambling entirely from their commercial breaks, with Sky and cable-TV operator Virgin Media featuring new technology in their set-top boxes that will give customers the ability to block all forms of gaming ads.

Steven van Rooyen, chief executive of Sky in the UK, said: “Our customers are worried about gambling ads on TV – and we understand their concerns. That’s why we’ve committed to limiting the amount of gambling ads on Sky and better protecting those vulnerable to problem gambling.”

In addition, Van Rooyen called for internet giants such as Google and Facebook to follow suit, saying that while regulation had made television a “safe space”, dangers remain in online gambling advertising.

He said: “There is still a real danger online – and there will be until online platforms are regulated as tightly as TV.”

Marc Etches, chief executive of the GambleAware charity, has praised the move saying broadcasters, as well as clubs and advertisers, “have a role to play in helping to make people aware of the risks of gambling”.

Etches told iGamingBusiness.com: “For some time GambleAware has been raising concerns about the relationship between football and gambling. Specifically, we are concerned that the amount of gambling-related marketing on television and online serves to normalise gambling for children, and we have commissioned research into its impact that will be published in 2019.

“In the meantime, broadcasters, clubs and advertisers all have a role to play in helping to make people aware of the risks of gambling and where to find help and support if it is needed including the National Gambling Helpline via BeGambleAware.org.”

The UK Gambling Commission in August set out its new rules over advertising, pledging to take “tougher action” against operators that breach regulations.

In the wake of this announcement, a number of major bookmakers have come out in support of cutting back on televised betting ads.

Last month, GVC Holdings set out plans to lower the amount of gambling ads it shows on UK television and declared its support for a ban on ads before the 9pm watershed. The official announcement came after CEO Kenny Alexander called for change, saying televised betting ads had got “out of hand”.

Responding to Sky’s pledge, rival pay-television broadcaster BT Sport said that it already has certain limits in place regarding betting ads, but it will look to review its approach.

BT Sport said in a statement: “While we already limit the number of gambling adverts shown on our channels, we will continue to review our approach to bookmakers advertising and work closely with the ASA and other appropriate stakeholders.

“In addition to this we are supporting GambleAware’s initiative to highlight responsible gambling via a campaign that will run on BT Sport and other broadcasters.”

Image: Max Pixel