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Gambling firms to halt TV and radio advertising during lockdown

A smartphone user accesses the BetFred gambling website on their phone and a laptop (John Stillwell/PA)
A smartphone user accesses the BetFred gambling website on their phone and a laptop (John Stillwell/PA)

The UK’s largest gambling firms have said they will remove all TV and radio advertising for games and products during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) said firms have voluntarily agreed to remove all their gaming advertising for at least six weeks.

It comes a week after the Government wrote to gambling firms asking them to provide regular updates on how they are tackling problem gambling during the lockdown.

The industry body said existing TV and radio advertising slots will be replaced by safer gambling messages, donated to charities or removed from broadcast where contracts allow.

The BGC, which represents betting shops, online betting and gaming, bingo and casinos, said it has made the move despite a fall in advertising spend and the volume of TV sport and casino adverts falling up to 10%.

It added that all operators will “look to implement this change as rapidly as possible but no later than Thursday May 7”.

Members of the trade body account for about 50% of all gambling advertising on TV and radio.

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said the gambling industry has “worked very closely with Government” during the pandemic.

He said that total online revenue in the sector has dived 60% during the lockdown, saying “there hasn’t been an explosion in people betting online as some had predicted”.

Mr Dugher said: “From day one of this crisis, we have sought to protect customers potentially at risk, including announcing stepping up safer gambling measures as part of our 10 pledges for Covid-19 in March.

“This latest move by the regulated industry further underlines our commitment to safer betting and gaming, with many people cut off and feeling anxious.

“This major announcement by our members will result in the removal of half of all product advertising on TV and radio.

“I hope now that other major gambling operators like the National Lottery follow our lead.”

A Camelot spokesman said: “Every time someone plays the National Lottery, they are contributing to UK good causes – raising, on average, £30 million each week.

“This is even more vital during this time when hundreds of millions of pounds of lottery money is being made available to help the country respond to, and recover from, the Covid-19 crisis.

“For example, the National Lottery Community Fund recently announced that up to £300 million will be used to support the most vulnerable in communities across the UK, the largest sum outside of central government.”

Speaking in the House of Commons, the SNP urged further action from the Government.

John Nicolson, the party’s spokesman for digital, culture, media and sport, said: “Estimates indicate that as many as 200,000 people in Scotland are problem gamblers. A Survation poll last week showed an apparent fall in part-time gambling as a result of the coronavirus lock-in, maybe masking more intense betting amongst problem gamblers.

“In the absence of sporting fixtures, many are turning to riskier products such as online casino games, and advertising for these has been ramped up by betting companies during lockdown which, of course, is shameful.

“Will the minister call upon gambling companies to provide clear and prominent Covid-19 addiction warnings on betting site pages and will he impose an ongoing suspension on gambling advertising beyond the end of the current lockdown period?”

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston replied: “Whilst I welcome the current movements from the industry, they have come up with plans, we’ve asked them to also share data in a more meaningful manner so that we can make educated choices here, and also of course we have announced a review of the Gambling Act and we will be making more announcements in terms of the scope of that in due course for potentially more comprehensive measures.”