The UK's largest betting and gaming operators have agreed to the voluntary removal of all TV and radio game advertising for six weeks in response to mounting pressure on the gambling industry and concerns about risks to vulnerable people in the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Betting and Gaming Council, which represents 90% of the UK’s betting, gaming, bingo and casino companies, has announced that its members have until 7 May to remove their ads from TV and radio. Existing TV and radio advertising slots will be replaced by safe gambling messages, donated to charities or removed entirely (where contractually permitted). The ban will last until at least 5 June, and will only be reviewed on relaxation of lockdown restrictions in the UK.
However, BCG members (and other gambling operators) may continue to use other marketing channels, including direct and online marketing, such as ads on social media, e-mails and text messages.
It also remains to be seen whether other major gambling operators follow suit. The BCG's members account for only 50% of all gambling advertising on TV and radio, and the BCG's announcement included a call to action for others - notably lottery organisers.
So will this action be enough for those who have been calling for strict curbs on gambling during the COVID-19 crisis? A moratorium on advertising was just one of several measures set out in a letter sent to government earlier this month from a cross-party group of more than 20 MPs - the group also urged for the moratorium to apply to all advertising and bonus offers, and for the introduction of stake limits on slot games and mandatory limits on customer account deposits. Indeed, in her response to the BCG's announement, Carolyn Harris (chair of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling-related harm) lamented that this measure had not been implemented from day one of lockdown and called for its extension across advertising. Nigel Huddleston (sports minister) has also hinted at announcements to come on more comprehensive measures. It seems likely, then, that this will not be the last said on this topic.
We are determined to do everything we can to protect customers potentially at risk during this lockdown period and beyond – and we are determined to drive the high standards that the public expect from us. I hope others follow our lead.