MP says block on all advertising should have been in place from day one to protect addicts.
The UK’s biggest betting and gaming companies are to cease advertising their products on TV and radio during the lockdown, after MPs called for a moratorium.
The Betting and Gaming Council, which represents 90% of the UK’s betting, gaming, bingo and casino companies, said booked TV and radio slots would either feature safe gambling messaging from charities or be removed entirely if contracts with broadcasters permitted.
“From day one of this crisis we have sought to protect customers potentially at risk,” said Michael Dugher, the BGC’s chief executive. “This latest move by the regulated industry further underlines our commitment to safer betting and gaming with many people cut off and feeling anxious.”
Members have until 7 May to remove their ads from TV and radio, and the ban will last until at least 5 June. However, companies will continue to use other marketing channels such as direct marketing, which includes ads on social media as well as by email and text messages.
This month more than 20 MPs called for strict curbs on gambling during the lockdown, including a moratorium on advertising, and called the betting industry’s own proposals “very weak”.
Carolyn Harris, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling-related harm, said a block on all advertising should have been implemented from the first day of the lockdown to protect vulnerable people and addicts stuck at home.
“This is a clear admission that gambling advertising is having a profound effect on the level of problem gambling we are seeing across the UK,” she said. “I welcome today’s decision but I wish it could have been made on day one of the lockdown, rather than six weeks down the line. The damage already done is hard to comprehend. It’s vital that this is extended to all gambling advertising on all mediums throughout this pandemic.”
Dugher said there had not been any explosion in online gambling as had been feared, and overall gambling was down with no live sport on TV and high-street betting shops and casinos closed.
“There will always be alarmist noises from anti-gambling prohibitionists who just want to grab headlines,” he said. “We are determined to do everything we can to protect customers potentially at risk during this lockdown period and beyond.”
The BGC said its members accounted for about half of all gambling advertising on TV and radio, and it called on others in the sector – including the National Lottery operator Camelot – to also implement bans.