Calls to cut ‘bombardment’ of gambling ads in stadiums to protect children

Charities warn children's exposure to gambling adverts in football are "out of control" and have called on the government to minimise the damage, ITV News' Caroline Lewis reports

The Premier League and other sports bodies should cut a “bombardment” of gambling ads in stadiums to minimise children’s exposure to them, MPs have said.

A voluntary withdrawal of gambling sponsorship from the front of Premier League players’ shirts was welcomed by the cross-party Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

However, the group of MPs warned the move doesn't go far enough, as too many betting ads are still visible during a game, including on the side of the pitch.

The committee said the government should take a more precautionary approach to advertising than that proposed in the gambling White Paper, which it suggested didn't go far enough.

It cited a recent study that found that front-of-shirt branding made up just 7% of all the gambling messaging that was visible during 10 matches.

A further study revealed that nearly 7,000 gambling messages could be seen during six matches surveyed on the opening weekend of the season.

A recent study that found 7,000 gambling messages could be seen during six matches during the opening weekend of the season. Credit: PA

The MPs “therefore recommend” that the new gambling sponsorship code of conduct the government proposed to develop with sports governing bodies should reduce gambling ads in stadiums and also require that a higher proportion of ads promoted safer gambling.

However, it also recommended a “distinct approach” to gambling sponsorship and ads for horse-racing and greyhound racing “given their close and long-standing relationships with betting”.

The report backs much of the government’s gambling White Paper, published earlier this year, including a new system of financial risk checks to be conducted by gambling operators on customer accounts that lose certain amounts of money within given time frames.

However the committee said there was “work to do” to ensure that they were minimally intrusive and protected financial data.

It also supported establishing extra online protection for young adults, through a lower stake limit and thresholds for triggering financial risk checks, and for the introduction of a statutory levy to be paid by gambling operators to fund problem gambling research, prevention and treatment.

The committee called for the government to set out a detailed timetable for the delivery of the White Paper’s proposals, saying it was concerned that there was no mention of gambling legislation in the King’s Speech.

Committee chairwoman Dame Caroline Dinenage said: “While gambling regulation should not overly impinge on the freedom to enjoy what is a problem-free pastime for the majority, more should be done to shield both children and people who have experienced problem gambling from what often seems like a bombardment of advertising branding at football and other sporting events.

“The government needs to go further than the proposals in the White Paper and work with sports governing bodies on cutting the sheer volume of betting adverts people are being exposed to.”

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: “The gambling White Paper outlines a balanced and proportionate package of measures, delivering greater protections for those at risk of experiencing harm, while having minimal impact on the freedoms of the large majority of punters.

“The White Paper will deliver new financial risk checks, stake limits for online slots and a mandatory levy on betting firms to pay their fair share towards research, prevention and treatment of gambling addiction.

“There are already robust rules in place to ensure gambling advertising is socially responsible, and we support the work ongoing across the sport sector to develop new standards through an industry wide code of practice.”

GambleAware chief executive Zoe Osmond welcomed the committee's recommendations and described the government's recent white paper as a "missed opportunity to strengthen regulation" and to "protect children".

She added: “We know gambling marketing is almost four times more appealing to children and young people than adults, and that early exposure – seeing gambling advertising and marketing on TV or social media – can be associated with a greater risk of gambling harms later in life."

A spokesman for the Big Step campaign to end gambling advertising in football, said: “Gambling advertising in our national sport is out of control, with thousands of ads for addictive products infecting the minds of children every single match.

"Behind every advert is the reality that gambling causes devastating harm to millions of families in the UK.

“Although it’s welcome that these MPs are calling for action, sadly their recommendations do not touch the sides.

"If they’re deemed harmful enough to be reduced, then all ads should be removed from every football ground. This government or the next must end all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football.”

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