Commission urges industry to act on advertising warnings

Gambling Commission programme director Ian Angus has emphasised the need for “a proper and constructive debate about gambling marketing and advertising, including sponsorship arrangements in sport”.

Angus’ recommendations come after Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson mapped out the party’s policies on heightening gambling marketing restrictions, aiming to replicate the ‘whistle-to-whistle advertising ban’ introduced in Australia at the start of 2018. Which would mean prohibiting all promotion of betting-related content during the broadcasts of live sporting events.

Speaking at a Responsible Marketing for Gambling Operators Conference in London, Angus highlighted that: “At a time when consumer trust in gambling is at an all time low, it would be unwise for industry to ignore the hardening public and political mood around advertising.

“For some, it’s a moral reaction; for others it’s an irritant (stop bombarding me with gambling ads); but for many, including a growing number of researchers and academics, it reflects a genuine concern about the unknown impacts of children’s exposure to gambling advertising and sport sponsorship.”

He added: “It’s difficult to see how the “as is” scenario is sustainable. Parliamentary questions on advertising are tabled almost weekly, media headlines scream about irresponsible marketing practices, and prominent politicians, from across the political divide, are calling for drastic measures to reduce children’s exposure.”

Angus went onto highlight how the industry has let itself down with regards to free bet and bonus marketing: “The advertising of free bets and bonuses is a good example. Well established advertising rules, drawn down from consumer law, make clear that marketing promotions must not mislead. Industry was warned, time and time again, about misleading marketing practices but failed to act.

“It should never have taken a series of ASA rulings, a million pounds worth of financial penalties from the Commission and a major investigation, followed by enforcement action, by the Competition & Markets Authority, to secure sector-wide compliance. It’s done incalculable damage to the industry’s reputation and it could, and should, have been avoided.”

Looking ahead, he stated: “My advice to you is this. A storm is gathering, but it can be avoided. Learn from the mistakes of the past – listen to what the public is saying and put responsible advertising standards at the very heart of your business.

“Don’t wait for the storm clouds to burst and precautionary measures to be triggered. Step up now and own this.”