UK betting companies and broadcasters have offered to fund an £8 million problem gambling campaign in the lead-up to a review of the industry.
The government will reportedly address the increase in gambling ads in the upcoming review of the UK gaming industry, set to be published in the coming weeks.
But top betting companies are attempting to reduce the potential negative impact the review, by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS), could have with a problem gambling campaign.
Prominent gambling companies teamed up with UK broadcasters to create the awareness program, addressing problem gambling and addiction, which is set to launch in early 2018.
The Remote Gambling Association, which oversees UK online casinos, as well as the industry’s responsible gambling body the Senate Group, are both putting in cash.
The Advertising Associations and TV networks will also contribute to the £8 million campaign since the broadcasting industry relies heavily on gambling companies for revenue.
The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG), made up of betting companies, casinos, arcade owners, and online gambling firms, will coordinate the campaign.
But Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said the timing of the campaign is worrying, given the government is mulling over tighter restrictions on betting advertising similar to the reforms the Australian government recently implemented.
“There must be no stitch-up to help the gambling industry avoid tighter restrictions on advertising,” Watson said.
“Industry-funded campaigns highlighting the risks of problem gambling are all very well, but they can’t be an alternative to regulation.”
Watson, who recently slammed football associations for allowing gambling sponsorships, believes relying on voluntary actions from the betting companies is an ineffective measure.
“The government’s review needs to look in particular at advertising that children are more likely to see, including pre-watershed gambling advertising around live sporting events, and football shirt sponsorship by betting firms,” he said.
Additionally, some sections of the industry aren’t playing ball and are refusing to contribute.
The National Casino Forum, the Bingo Association, and the trade body for arcades, Bacta, are all refusing to put money towards the campaign as they believe the plan is a poor attempt to avoid tighter advertising restrictions.
Australian problem gambling researcher, Professor Linda Hancock, told the Guardian that these campaigns “perpetuate the misnomer that safe gambling is up to individuals who need to alter their risky behaviour to avoid gambling problems”.
“Campaigns become a form of covert promotion of gambling whilst presenting as harm prevention, which they are not,” she added.
The Australian government recently passed legislation which places restrictions on gambling advertising on TV, radio and print publications. The new reforms restrict gambling ads from being aired during live sporting events before 8:30pm, which has been supported by TV networks due to a $AUD100 million package.
In the UK House of Lords debate earlier this week, British business magnate, Alan Sugar, called for similar restrictions.
“The government need to do something about stopping gambling television adverts that can be viewed by young people, the first being, although maybe not a solution, putting them after 9pm, after the watershed,” he said.
Online casinos, betting companies, and other gambling businesses have spent more than £1.4 billion on promotional material for media advertising since it was deregulated in 2012.
The industry agreed to a voluntary code, which only allows gambling ads to be aired before 9pm if they are attached to sporting events. However, the events are not required to be live, which means networks can broadcast gambling ads all day provided a sports match is on.