The restrictions on gambling ads during live TV broadcasts of sporting events in the UK have come into force. The Ashes Test cricket series played between Australia and England is the first major sports competition subjected to the newly imposed ban.
Under the new regime, gambling-related advertising before 9 pm is prohibited throughout the entire duration of the sports matches. The restrictions kick in five minutes before a given game starts and end five minutes after it finishes. The ban applies to reruns and highlights of the events as well.
The enforcement of the ban was intended to coincide with the beginning of the new football season which commences next week. However, the Test cricket series kicked off yesterday in London and became the first major competition broadcast without gambling ads. Greyhound and horse racing are the only sports that fall outside the scope of the restrictions because the two are considered intrinsically connected to gambling.
An Act of Self-Regulation
Gambling companies in the UK acted of their own volition rather than being forced to follow restrictions imposed by an external regulatory body. The announcement came in December 2018 when some of the UK’s largest gambling firms like bet365, Paddy Power, and Ladbrokes voluntarily agreed to stop advertising their services during live sporting events.
Upon the announcement of the ban, Jeremy Wright who served as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport from 2018 to July 2019 emphasized the importance of protecting vulnerable individuals and minors from gambling-related harm. According to him, gambling firms should be more socially responsible.
Bookmakers and online casino operators were permitted to advertise on TV under the provisions of the 2005 Gambling Act. Before this legislation was enacted, only bingo operators and the National Lottery were allowed to broadcast their adverts on television.
The decision to take this measure was made after last year’s World Cup that was held in Russia. Being a competition of such a huge magnitude, it attracted a broader audience that was exposed to extensive gambling advertising.
The cumulative duration of gambling ads during the World Cup exceeded an hour and a half. This unleashed a wave of social disapproval, with anti-gambling campaigners claiming that the advertisements normalise sports betting.
The new restrictions on the pre-watershed advertising of betting companies are expected to significantly reduce the number of gambling-related ads Brits see on TV. With that said, betting companies are still on prominent display during matches through football shirt sponsorships. During the 2019-2020 Premier League season, half of the teams will wear shirts with gambling companies’ logos.
Campaigners like James Grimes of The Big Step charity project insist that both gambling businesses and clubs should address this issue because football fans are a risk group with a higher likelihood of developing a gambling problem.