UK-licensed gambling operators could be banned from advertising during the day, according to a report in Friday’s Times newspaper.
On Thursday, BBC News online editor Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) tweeted the front page of Friday’s Times newspaper, which claimed the UK government’s upcoming review of the gambling industry would ban all gambling TV ads before the 9pm watershed. The Times quoted an unidentified senior minister saying the gambling industry’s “luck has run out.”
Under the UK’s existing rules, gambling companies are permitted to advertise before 9pm only if (a) they’re a bingo operator or (b) the ads appear during breaks in a live sporting event. The Times‘ source claimed that the sports exemption allowed online betting operators to “basically be advertising to children all weekend.”
Last month, the Daily Mail reported that the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) planned to launch a review into the fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) in bookmakers’ betting shops. The Mail suggested this review could also examine the impact of betting advertising.
The Times says this review is now expected to get underway “within weeks” and that the gambling ads had been identified by the DCMS as an area of concern. Gambling companies’ use of social media to promote their services will also come under scrutiny.
Any push to restrict gambling advertising will likely meet with fierce resistance from UK broadcasters, who have come to rely on gambling operators for a good chunk of their advertising revenue. A report this summer by researchers Nielsen showed UK gambling operators spent £118.5m on TV spots in 2015, up from £82m in 2012, and were on pace to spend a record £123m in 2016.
The Times has ramped up its anti-gambling rhetoric this year, including a widely mocked report that FOBTs were costing the National Health Service £10m per year in anti-addiction medication, when the actual outlay to date had been a mere £340. Regardless, this new Times report has likely ruined the weekends of many a UK betting operator.