Sky CEO: UK TV gambling ad ban useless without online curbs


sky-ceo-tv-gambling-advertisingThe CEO of UK broadcasting giant Sky has warned that curtailing gambling operators’ television advertising will only lead to a further proliferation of these ads online.

On Sunday, the Times printed an op-ed by Sky CEO Stephen van Rooyen, who warned that the Remote Gambling Association’s rumored plan for a voluntary ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban on gambling adverts during live sports broadcasts would fail to stem the spread of problem gambling activity. (Read a non-paywalled blog post of van Rooyen’s article here.)

Citing a recent report by the industry-funded GambleAware charity, van Rooyen (pictured) noted that TV accounts for only 15% of gambling operators’ marketing budgets, while 80% of this spending is allocated to digital and social media channels, a medium van Rooyen claimed was “largely unregulated.”

The Sky CEO warned that any reduction in TV ad spending would simply be redirected online, and that if the RGA and its member companies were “serious about protecting vulnerable gamblers,” then they should focus on their online marketing, which van Rooyen claimed “has the least level of regulation and where there is the most evidence of harm.”

The exec acknowledged that his views appeared to be those of “a broadcaster scared of losing TV ad revenue,” but van Rooyen pointed to Sky’s recent decision to limit gambling ads to one per commercial break and its use of AdSmart technology to enable viewers to block all gambling advertising. Despite the hit to Sky’s bottom line, van Rooyen claimed “a proportionate and responsible limit to gambling advertising is the right thing to do.”

A spokesperson for the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rejected van Rooyen’s claims that online ads occupied a regulatory wasteland, telling iGaming Business that digital ads are “subject to the same strict regulations as broadcast advertising.”

The spokesperson cited numerous instances in which the ASA has spanked UK gambling operators for online promos the watchdog felt had strayed outside the lines, as well as recently imposed tougher rules on digital come-ons.

While the RGA denied a BBC report last week that claimed the TV ad ban was a done deal, the RGA’s members are known to have been discussing new ad curbs. It’s widely believed that the BBC report had simply jumped the gun and that the actual deal will be announced this week or the next.

However, a Harris Interactive survey conducted following the BBC report found deep skepticism among the UK public that a TV ad ban would do much to reduce underage or problem gambling activity.