Sadiq Khan pledges to ban London Underground gambling ads

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has incorporated a pledge to ban gambling advertising on the London Underground into his manifesto ahead of the upcoming mayoral elections.

The Labour Party politician previously banned advertisements of junk food on the city’s underground rail service in 2018. He now plans to extend this advertisement ban to betting marketing if re-elected on 6 May.

“I’ve already banned body-shaming advertisements and advertisements for foods high in fat, salt and sugar on the TfL network because of their impact on the health of Londoners,” the Mayor’s manifesto read.

“Given the devastating way gambling addiction can destroy lives and families, I’ll instruct TfL to bring forward plans to extend the ban to harmful gambling advertisements on the network.”

However, the ban may not be necessarily welcomed by Transport for London (TfL), for whom advertising revenue, millions from gambling operators, plays a core role in its overall financial network as well as that of the capital as a whole, contributing to around 40% of the city’s outdoor advertising income.

The TfL is also expected to reinvest over £156 million in advertising income back into the London Underground, which has been hard hit due to a fall in the number of passengers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Khan’s decision arises as gambling advertising and general regulation of the industry comes under increasing scrutiny from public figures and politicians from both sides of the political spectrum.

It has already been announced that ‘the most likely outcome’ of the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) review of the 2005 Gambling Act will be a complete ban on shirt sponsorships and advertising by betting companies in professional football.

The announcement allegedly received the support of Boris Johnson’s senior cabinet members, whilst Labour MP Carolyn Harris of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Harms (AAPG GH) described the move as a ‘common sense’ outcome of the review.

Additionally, the APPG GH recently criticised the Camelot Group, operator of the UK National Lottery, for promoting its business in the parliamentary magazine The House.

Advertising has also been highlighted as a key issue for review by responsible gaming advocacy groups such as GamCare, which found via its lived experience surveys that 80% of respondents were in favour of a blanket ban of betting companies sponsoring sports events.

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