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UK gambling industry could face tougher advertising restrictions

Lord David Currie wants UK gambling restrictions
The future chairman of the ASA, Lord David Currie.

THE UK gambling industry is facing a period of uncertainty and comments from the soon-to-be Chairman of UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) hasn’t made things any better.

Lord David Currie told the Financial Times that the mid-2000s’ “liberalisation” of the UK’s gambling industry wasn’t the best thing to do given the high rate of problem gambling.

Lord Currie, who takes over the chairman position for the ASA next month, said people who are concerned with the rate of problem gambling should look back to where it all started.

“I think people should ask the question: ‘was that the right policy at the time?’,” he said.

“The fact of the matter is this is a big issue here in the UK, more so than many other countries, because of that liberalisation.”

He added that the industry is not as regulated as it should be, but the ASA couldn’t fix the issues alone.

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His comments are based on anti-gambling campaign groups arguing that the rise in gambling advertising is partly responsible for the two million people recorded as problem gamblers, or at risk players, by the UK Gambling Commission in a report last month.

Lord Currie’s comments also follow a series of incidents involving gambling companies and advertising issues.

While UK sports betting companies and British online casino sites have been able to promote gambling services on British TV since the implementation of the Gambling Act in 2005, there are several restrictions in place to protect vulnerable people, including children and at-risk gamblers.

Ladbrokes, 888, Sky Betting & Gaming, and Casumo were recently slammed by the ASA, which regulates the UK’S advertising industry, for letting a rogue affiliate get away with publishing fake news which “targeted vulnerable people”.

Although gambling companies weren’t aware of the article, they were held responsible as they were positioned to profit from players who signed up.

Ladbrokes and 888 ended their partnership with the affiliate, while Sky ended its affiliate program altogether.

Other gambling companies have been held accountable for advertising breaches, including BGO casino for “misleading customers”.

Lord Currie said clearer boundaries need to be established with regards to the definition of gambling advertising.

“We clearly need to be policing the boundaries between what is comment and what becomes advertising and that is an important challenge,” he said.

“If someone is being paid that is an advertisement and there needs to be greater clarity about that.”

He added that a review of advertising rules needs to take place to ensure regulators are keeping up with the changing environment.

The advertising crackdown campaign has been spearheaded by several politicians. UK Labour Party’s Tom Watson recently called for a ban on gambling advertising on football jersey’s. Mr Watson wants to introduce legislation to ban gambling sponsorships if football associations don’t start taking more action.

The gambling advertising crackdown also ties in with the upcoming triennial review of the nation’s gaming industry, set to be published in October. While the report will predominantly focus on the maximum stakes of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), advertising will be featured, as well as whether heavier restrictions on the gambling industry should be introduced.