Pressure mounts on UK operators to agree to restrict TV advertising around sporting events

Despite BBC reports this morning that a deal had been reached over a “whistle to whistle advertising ban”, it is understood that discussions are continuing between members of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) over an in principle set of voluntary restrictions which will curb the level of gambling advertising around televised sporting events. The BBC reported that the “ban” would mean that any live sports broadcast which begins before the watershed will not contain betting adverts.

Any proposed changes to the existing guidance issued by the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling would need to be ratified, albeit it is understood that there is momentum behind the need for change. The Gambling Commission requires operators to follow this guidance under an ordinary code provision in its Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice.

It is rumoured in the press that measures that have been discussed include a total ban on pre-watershed advertising, banning adverts promoting in-play odds and the restriction of gambling ads to one slot per commercial break. It is expected that exemptions would need to made for horseracing in view of its symbiotic relationship with the gambling industry.

The volume of gambling advertising has been increasingly under the spotlight in the media and in political circles, with the Labour Party outlining a series of draconian measures it would seek to introduce. Despite the Gambling Commission’s own research suggesting that gambling advertising has a limited impact in terms of contributing to problem gambling, leading operators are, rightly in our view, reading the mood music in an effort to stave off the prospect of legislative intervention of the type seen in recent months in both Italy and Belgium.

If consensus is reached, it will be interesting to see how operators re-allocate their advertising budget in light of other steps taken by the Gambling Commission around promotions and responsibility for marketing affiliates. We will publish a further update as and when any proposed changes are confirmed.