Leading gambling operators in the UK have announced they are to halt advertising during the coronavirus pandemic, in a move that has been seen as underlining the industry’s commitment to responsible gambling.
The Betting and Gaming Council, which represents some 90% of the UK’s gambling operators, announced its members would cease all advertising on radio and TV by 7th May, with the blackout set to last until the 5th June at the earliest.
According to the Betting and Gaming Council, the move has been adopted as a precaution at a time when more people are likely to be feeling the effects of anxiety and isolation. Despite minority levels of problem gambling reported year on year in the UK, the proactive measure is designed to prevent vulnerable people who may be at risk of developing gambling addiction from falling into problematic behaviour.
All booked advertising slots will be removed where possible, or replaced by messages promoting safe gambling, in instances where operators are already contractually bound to honour advertising space.
While the ban does not extend to online and direct marketing to existing customers, the Council hopes the move will be considered in the spirit of protecting vulnerable groups at a time when their anxieties may already be heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Betting and Gaming Council has also called on other operators to follow suit, including the National Lottery operator Camelot, which is not currently a member of the group.
At the same time, total gambling revenue has already been falling during the lockdown phase of the pandemic, with live sport cancellations leading to a sharp reduction in betting activity. This comes despite fears from some that the lockdown would lead to an increase in gambling, and with it, problem gambling – something that has shown no signs of materialising.
Michael Dugher, the BGC’s chief executive, said the move shows the seriousness with which the industry takes its obligation to customer safety.
“This latest move by the regulated industry further underlines our commitment to safer betting and gaming with many people cut off and feeling anxious.”
“There will always be alarmist noises from anti-gambling prohibitionists who just want to grab headlines. We are determined to do everything we can to protect customers potentially at risk during this lockdown period and beyond.”
The move comes against a backdrop of increasing hostility from UK politicians to the legitimate gambling sector – despite increasingly stringent regulation year on year. While the gambling industry has long accommodated the requests of lawmakers of different stripes, even to the significant detriment of employment in the sector in the case of measures such as maximum FOBT stakes, there still remains increasingly vocal opposition to legal gambling in the UK from some political quarters.
The advertising ban demonstrates the responsible, proactive approach the industry continues to take towards respecting the wellbeing of vulnerable gamblers, and those most at risk from developing problematic gambling behaviours.