Two university studies on gambling advertising spending cited data that operators increased their expenditures on advertising by almost 50% during the winter Covid-19 lockdowns although they were aware of customers’ anxiety.
According to separate studies held by the Universities of Glasgow and Stirling, the amount spent on gambling advertising reached a new high in 2021. The Daily Mail even reported that the figures exceeded the levels of gambling advertising spending surpassing the pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.
Gambling operators still kept their promise to reduce their investments in advertising during the first Covid-19 lockdown in the UK that took place in March 2020. However, their following actions more than compensated during the next two lockdown periods that saw gambling advertising spending reach a whole new level.
According to an earlier report published by the same authors, there was a strong connection between problem gambling and gambling advertising. The study revealed that 87% of gambling addicts claimed that it was advertising that encouraged them to spend more and more on gambling services.
The lead author of both studies, the University of Glasgow’s sociologist Dr Heather Wardle, explained that this was the first time when experts actually got evidence that gambling advertising exposure seriously affected people suffering from problem gambling behaviour. She further noted that the findings contradicted the industry’s claims there was no evidence that gambling companies’ advertising caused any harm to customers, seriously neglecting the fact that gambling addicts tend to spend more than other gamblers.
Advertising Spending of Gambling Operators Skyrockets over the Second and Third Lockdown
Although gambling operators kept their advertising down during the first Covid-19 lockdown, during the second one, they seriously boosted their spending on popularising their services among users, showing no long-term commitment to reducing adverts in the lengthy period of time when people were considered much more vulnerable. In comparison to 2019, the amount spent by operators on gambling advertising rose almost by half (49%) during the first winter lockdown in November 2020, reaching £10.3 million on a weekly basis. The increase of gambling advertising investments over the third lockdown was a bit lower, with the amount reaching £7.6 million.
When the UK Government unveiled the first lockdown, the trade body representing the legal gambling industry in the country – the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) – shared that a reduction of advertising spending during the coronavirus pandemic would act as a safeguard for people who find it difficult to control their gambling habits. At the time, industry opponents described the move as a PR stunt.
According to reports, the requirement that was first unveiled by the BGC members during the first lockdown and as part of which gambling operators were supposed to devote 20% of their adverts on television and radio channels to safer gambling messages had now become permanent. So far, however, the Betting and Gaming Council has been avoiding the gambling advertising topic, changing the subject to other claims that have been made in regard to gambling over the UK lockdowns.
The trade body of the UK gambling sector claimed that, according to academic studies, there was no causal link between problem gambling development and exposure to gambling companies’ advertising materials. However, official reports provided by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) prove otherwise.