Gambling firms to halt TV and radio advertising during lockdown

A smartphone user accesses the BetFred gambling website on their phone and a laptop Credit: 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.”

Henrietta Bowden-Jones, director of the Central and North West London NHS Trust’s national problem gambling clinic and national centre for gaming disorders, said: “Today marks the beginning of a new era.

“The end of gambling advertising on TV and radio during lockdown is an acknowledgement that these adverts are potentially harmful to many.

“The fact it took a large number of MPs, Lords and scientists many weeks to get the industry to reach this decision voluntarily adds weight to my wish to see better regulation in place.

“The most important ban would have been of online ads. Sadly this has not been included and many are wondering why?”

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