The Independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communication Industries (Ofcom) have caused quite a stir in the UK after releasing a report that shows the volume of gambling related television advertisements having risen 600% since legislation changed in Sep 2007.
That was the date that the Gambling Act 2005 came into force, opening the doors for TV ads for sports betting, online casinos and poker to be shown alongside those already on the air promoting the football pools, bingo and the National Lottery.
If you hark back to 2005 there were only 90,000 gambling ads aired in the UK, and this rose to 537,000 in the first year that the law was amended. To put things into perspective, TV ad airtime has also doubled between 2005-2012, from 17.4m to 34.2m spots, as the number of available TV channels exploded. The proportion of commercials accounted for by gambling ads during this time rose from 0.5% to 4.1% of all ads on television.
The latest gambling ads even mirror the successful serialized ads of the late 1980s early 1990s, that saw the Gold Blend couple push sales of Nescafe Gold Blend Instant Coffee through the roof, as did the famous Carling Black Label adverts starring Mark Arden and Stephen Frost. BetVictor and Ladbrokes are just two who have taken advantage of this approach.
In 2012, 532,000 bingo TV ads were aired, 411,000 online casino and poker, 355,000 lotteries and scratch cards and 91,000 sports betting. Today, we are subjected to 1.4m gambling ads that Ofcom believe create 30.9bn ‘impacts’ that is, the number of times a commercial was seen by viewers across the year.
Concern over this increase in numbers has been felt in Parliament, with exposure to children being the hot potato. The Ofcom report suggests that children under the age of 16 are being exposed to an average of 211 ads each.
The Sports Minister Helen Grant recently revealed that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is in discussion with a number of bodies to ensure that the current advertising codes were strong enough to protect the UK children from gambling ads.
It’s been revealed that Grant and DCMS Secretary of State Maria Miller attended meetings with Ofcom, the Gambling Commission (GC) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to discuss the growth of gambling TV ads, and whether there was an increased risk of exposure to children.
Grant was quoted as saying that despite the increase, she felt satisfied that current measures were proving to be a successful tool in limiting the exposure to children, mainly due to the 9pm watershed rule.
Grant’s views were made known during the third reading of the Gambling Act, and in response to a clause removed by the Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford, who was calling for a consultation on gambling advertising before the current watershed.
“I can assure honorable members that the government takes the issue very seriously indeed and are already working to assess the adequacy of the current arrangements,” Grant told the Commons.
“For this reason, there is no need to accept new clause nine, but I will ensure that Parliament is kept informed of our assessment of the impact of gambling advertising and, should I uncover evidence in the course of this work that suggests that advertising codes no longer provide effective protections, I will not hesitate to act,” she added.
Barry Norman Critiques Gambling Ads
Clive Efford is not the only person worried about the exposure of gambling ads on the young, poor and corruptible amongst us. Renowned movie critic Barry Norman has also chimed in with his views on what he sees as a disturbing trend.
“Perhaps most disturbing of all are the gambling commercials, which make betting look glamorous and surely appeal most strongly to the poorest and most desperate among us,” said Norman in a recent interview with The Times.
“There’s one in which a good-looking young couple are so eager to watch the telly and see how to lose all their money that they vault over the back of their settee, the more quickly to study the many ways in which they can gamble their life savings away.”
Norman was also critical of the availability of betting in general when he stated: “You can bet on anything online these days and the TV commercials are only too eager to show you how. Bingo, poker, football, horse racing, roulette, you name it. Two flies crawling up a windowpane? Yeah, you can probably bet on them as well.
“If you’re not addicted already you soon will be. Goodbye bank balance, goodbye house.”