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SNP MP Ronnie Cowan calls for a ban on gambling ads during Euros

© SYSTEMActor Ray Winstone in a Bet365 advert
Actor Ray Winstone in a Bet365 advert

A campaigning MP has called on ITV to suspend gambling adverts during next month’s Euros football championship.

Ronnie Cowan, vice-chair of the House of Commons’ all-party group on gambling-related harm, said change was needed, including a move to a situation where gambling was “tolerated, not promoted”.

He also backed campaigners who lost loved ones to gambling-related suicides, and who are also calling for action. The Big Step campaign supporters will take part in an ­awareness-raising walk from Gretna to Wembley to coincide with the start of the Euros next month.

There are 650 ­gambling-related suicides in the UK each year and more than a million people with a gambling disorder. About £2.3 billion was bet in the UK on the 2018 World Cup, more than twice that of the 2014 tournament, with 172 related ads run by ITV alone during 2018 World Cup.

Cowan, SNP member for Inverclyde, said: “The European Championships should be about the beautiful game but it will be impossible to watch without exposure to gambling ads. This type of advertising can have a devastating effect on young people and the vulnerable. We owe it to bereaved families who have lost loved ones to gambling-related suicide to provide better safeguards. We need to move to a place where gambling is tolerated, not promoted.

“My fear is that, with the greater exposure to gambling adverts this football festival will bring, new victims will suffer.”

He added: “I’m backing a ­suspension of gambling adverts on ITV during the tournament. Ads are already on display around the playing surface and elsewhere. Children are exposed to them daily and the normalisation of gambling is gaining pace. Major reform is required.”

Organisers of The Big Step, part of charity Gambling With Lives, set up by relatives and friends of those lost to gambling-related suicide, wrote last month to ITV outlining their concerns and backing calls for a gambling ad ban during the tournament.

ITV said: “The amount of ­gambling advertising around the live broadcast of football matches at the Euros will be significantly reduced compared to the 2018 World Cup. The majority of matches ITV plans to broadcast live will have no gambling ads under the ‘whistle to whistle’ ban and the remainder, which all have an 8pm kick-off, will have no gambling ads in the ad breaks before kick-off and before 9pm.”

Last week, a House of Lords report stated Britain’s gambling habit costs the public purse up to £1.2bn a year in areas such as crime, joblessness and treating addiction. There are an estimated 400,000 gambling addicts in the UK and 2.4 million are harmed by a someone else’s habit.

Ministers have launched a review into Britain’s gambling laws. The most recent figures show major firms made almost £2bn in operating profits last year.

A spokesman for industry group the Betting and Gaming Council said: “Betting advertising and sponsorship must comply with strict guidelines and safer gambling messaging is regularly and prominently displayed. According to the government, the rate of problem gambling is 0.5% and has been stable for the past 20 years. However, one problem gambler is one too many, which is why we will continue our work on further improving standards and promoting safer gambling.”