NHS warns industry not to ‘open the floodgates’ to excessive advertising

Claire Murdoch, the director of mental health at NHS England, has urged betting companies to avoid ‘aggressive advertising campaigns’ following the return of the football season.

Murdoch suggested that the NHS’ problem gambling centres will struggle to cope with ‘avoidable harm’ as a result of excessive gambling advertising, emphasising that the industry must not ‘open the floodgates of addiction’.

“The return of football will be a moment of excitement for millions but it must not be an excuse for gambling firms to open the floodgates of addiction,” Murdoch said.

“Plenty of people safely enjoy a flutter, but in the NHS we’re increasingly seeing people in need of specialist help after they fall victim to excessive and aggressive marketing by betting companies.

“The NHS is stepping up to the plate to offer specialist treatment, but with my colleagues having spent this year focused on protecting people from a once-in-a-generation global pandemic, the last thing NHS staff and patients need is for avoidable harm to be caused by reckless advertising and behaviour from the gambling industry as normal life begins to resume.

“What we don’t want to see over the next 48 hours is firms kicking off more aggressive advertising campaigns to make up for lost time.”

Responding to the statement made by Murdoch, Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) chief executive Michael Dugher pointed out that the gambling industry had strengthened its commitment to safer gambling during the lockdown – with BGC members dedicating 20% of advertising to responsible gambling campaigns.

“Rather than trying to once again grab alarmist headlines with her deliberately incendiary media interventions, Claire should take up our offer, made to her back in January, to speak with the industry about her concerns,” Dugher said, as reported in The Guardian.

“Murdoch is concerned that the whistle-to-whistle ban is not matched by a ban on online marketing, particularly on mobile phone apps, used by many people with accounts, who can bet rapidly on outcomes during matches.

“In January she wrote directly to major gambling companies Bet365, Betfred, GVC Holdings, Flutter Entertainment and William Hill, castigating some of their practices and saying there were “increasingly clear and worrying links between gambling and mental ill health.”

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