Recent gambling adverts in the UK sparked a debate if the industry giants are not reneging on the promise to promote safer gambling messages.
A Debate Started in March Continues
The saga concerning safer gambling advertisement practices began back in March. With the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK, the betting and gambling council announced a 10-point pledge for safer gambling. This move inevitably got the attention of MPs which called for stricter rules in terms of gambling advertising during lockdown.
Early in April, the minister responsible for gambling, Nigel Huddleston, commented: “People are at home and are severely restricted, with access to mini-casinos on their laptops or mobile phones.” He further noted: “We therefore have deep concerns about the ‘pledges’ which have been proposed this week by the BGC.”
Later on in April, talks among MPs and the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) outlined a ban for the advertising of casino operators on TV. However, this ban wasn’t implemented and as of last week, the BGC made a promise that the advertising will include promotion of ways for safer gambling.
The Updated Ads by the UK Gambling Suppliers
Looking at recent TV ads in the UK, some parties have raised the issue again, and debate concerning gambling ads continues. One such ad is by Coral. The ad ends with “Remember, always play within your limits and gamble responsibly,” which could be interpreted as an invitation to gamble.
Advertising by the sportsbook and gaming giant William Hill was also met with controversy. Yet, there is no evidence to substantiate the claim that either of the brands has actually been breaking regulatory measures. Both companies are committed to responsible gambling, deposit limits and time management, and those measures match the pledges released by the BGC back in March.
If anything, the UK gambling suppliers have shown resilience and compliance, adapting to new regulations at a quick pace. All of them have taken a hit due to the COVID-19 outbreak combined with deposit limits and time session limits.
MPs and Experts in The Industry Disagree that Social Ads have Effect
The recent ads on TV also got the attention of the MPs. Cited by the Guardian, all-party parliamentary group MPs commented: “These are clearly just forms of advertising under the thinly veiled guise of a social responsibility message.”
Gambling marketing expert Prof Samantha Thomas also expressed concern as to whether social ads for gambling can have any result. She stressed out that although those ads are deemed as social messages, it is still alarming that the suppliers are inviting clients to go on their web sites. Prof Thomas noted: “That is still promoting the companies.”
Charles Ritchie from Gambling with Lives, a charity addressing the risk of gambling-related harm and suicide had this to say: “the BGC should get their own members to act honorably and decently.” Furthermore, Ritchie shared that such advertising is nothing different than “hypocritical PR” which is indicating that the industry cannot self-regulate.