Gambling Harm—Time for Action Contents

Chapter 7: Advertising

Facts and statistics

478.In 2001, when the Budd review reported, the advertising of gambling products was tightly restricted as part of the policy of not stimulating demand. The Independent Television Commission had a Code of Advertising Standards and Practice which reflected the then legal position by prohibiting the advertising of betting and gaming, except football pools, bingo, the National Lottery and other permitted lotteries. The Code additionally prevented “telephone, internet and interactive-based credit betting services from advertising”.505 The Budd report recommended that advertising of gambling products should be permitted, subject to a code of practice.506

479.The result may not have been what the members of the Budd report anticipated. The gambling industry currently spends in excess of £1.5 billion a year on advertising. Gambling advertising has increased exponentially since the Gambling Act 2005 came into force. A financial analysis by Regulus Partners, published by GambleAware in November 2018, revealed that 80% of all gambling marketing activity is now on the internet, with companies spending five times more online than on television. The figures indicated the areas where gambling companies spent the most money on marketing in 2017:507

480.Some operators spent a larger proportion of their advertising outlay on television advertising. Phil Cronin of Tombola told us: “Last year, in our financial year up to the end of April [2019] we spent £32 million in the UK on advertising. Our revenue in the UK was about £90 million, so 36% or 37% of our revenue was spent on marketing the business. …. Half of that, £16 million, was spent on television advertising.”508 Other companies spent less on marketing, and a small proportion on TV advertising. Simon Wykes of the Gamesys Group, said that their total spending on marketing was usually within 10% to 15% of revenue. “We tend not to go on TV much … TV is not our most efficient form of advertising … Jackpotjoy is an online-only brand, so every two years we give it a little boost with TV to get increased brand awareness.”509

481.We asked witnesses whether the purpose of the advertising was primarily to grow the market, or whether it was simply a battle for market share within the existing market. Guy Parker, the CEO of the ASA, replied:

“What the gambling companies are up to depends on the specific gambling operator you are talking about. Some are incumbent operators trying to defend market share. Others are new entrants to the market, trying to challenge the incumbent operators and steal some of their market share.”510

Dan Taylor, the CEO of Paddy Power Betfair, one of the most well-established companies, replied:

“I would guess that the majority of advertising is there to compete with others for share of wallets and for customers across the sector. That is the reality in what is a highly competitive industry in the UK in which most customers will have relationships with multiple advertisers. Much of it is about competing for a share.”511

Tombola, on the other hand, from the very beginning had a twin strategy: “One part is to try to retain customers as well as we can; the other is to advertise and promote our services to new customers. Over the last four years, for example, we have doubled in size in the UK.”512

Regulation of advertising

482.The ASA regulates gambling advertising under the umbrella of the Gambling Act 2005 and through collective regulation with the Gambling Commission and Ofcom. The ASA sets and enforces rules to ensure that gambling advertisements (wherever they appear) do not undermine safe gambling and are socially responsible. The rules do that by:

483.The ASA regulates non-broadcast advertising, including newspapers, posters, websites, social media, cinema, emails, leaflets and billboards. This is done through the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP). Co-regulation is an arrangement the ASA have with Ofcom which has given the ASA a contract to regulate TV and radio advertising, through the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP). They issue jointly a Code specifically for Gambling,514 and it is a requirement of the LCCP that operators should comply with the Code.515

484.In February 2018 the CAP and the BCAP published guidance, Gambling advertising: responsibility and problem gambling516 “to ensure that ads are safe and with a particular focus on mitigating potential harms associated with problem gambling.” They explained: “The new guidance focuses on the ‘tone’ of ads. In essence, advertisers must be more careful with the messages they use. Based on evidence, we targeted risk factors (presented in advertising claims, imagery or other marketing approaches) that could unduly influence vulnerable groups to behave irresponsibly.”517 The guidance:

Effect of advertising

485.It is generally assumed that the increase in advertising is one of the causes, perhaps the main cause, of gambling-related harms. There is certainly a correlation, but we have received no evidence nor been pointed to any research which proves that there is any causal link between gambling advertising and problem gambling. On the contrary, Mr Parker said: “The indicators do not accord with the view that the undoubted increase in gambling advertising and in accessibility to gambling services, through smartphones, is driving a significant increase in problem gambling.”519

486.Mr Parker added: “I worry about this, because it seems common-sensical that, if there is a big increase in the volume of advertising, all other things being equal, it ought to lead to an increase in problems. The data is not showing that …”520 This concerns us too. Plainly the companies would not spend increasingly large sums on advertising if they did not believe that this would increase either the overall amount gambled, or the amount gambled with their company, or both, and it does indeed seem counter-intuitive that this should not also result in an increase in gambling-related harms.

487.In part, the problem may be due to the poor quality data that is currently available to investigate this relationship. Aggregated data, such as the prevalence rate of problem gamblers and overall gambling advertising spend, will not reveal what the prevalence rate of disordered gambling would be in the absence of gambling advertising. Even if prevalence rates of problem gambling were trending down, they might have trended lower still if there was no advertising. Research could look at policy changes, such as Italy’s 2019 gambling advertising ban, to understand better the causal effect of gambling advertising. Greater access to gambling operators’ data on which parts of the population are exposed to the most gambling advertising could help reveal whether those subgroups also show excess increases in gambling-related harm.

Advertising and children

488.Children are watching less TV than they were, and their exposure to TV advertisements generally, and to gambling adverts in particular, is decreasing. In 2008, the first full year for which advertisements for gambling were allowed on TV, children’s exposure was on average 2.2 advertisements per week. This increased to a peak of 4.4 per week in 2013, since when it has declined. The exposure was to 2.8 advertisements per week in 2017, and it is still decreasing.521

489.In March 2018 GambleAware commissioned two independent consortia to assess the extent, nature and impact of gambling marketing and advertising on children, young people and vulnerable groups in the UK. In July 2019 Ipsos MORI published an interim synthesis report, and it used this as a basis for written evidence submitted to us.522 The final report was published in March 2020.523

490.Ipsos MORI explained that a core part of the current advertising regulations relates to whether or not particular advertising content has “particular appeal” to children. When this is deemed to be the case, the advertisement is not allowed. Examples of themes or features that may be deemed to have particular appeal include the use of cartoon characters or animated style, bright colours or depiction of young people (i.e. under the age of 25). Their research found that children were attracted to a wide variety of themes and features within advertising, for example, humour and contemporary cultural references. These features may appeal to adults as much as to children, but this of course does not diminish the appeal to children. Ipsos MORI therefore questioned whether it makes sense to base regulations on the premise of “particular appeal”. They estimated that 41,000 UK followers of gambling-related accounts were likely to be under 16, and that children make up 17% of followers of accounts focused on eSports gambling. They concluded that:

“there are serious concerns related to gambling advertising, particularly on social media and for eSports betting. On Twitter, 68% of traditional sports and 74% of eSports adverts were perceived by the researchers to violate at least one of the advertising regulations put in place to protect children and the vulnerable.”524

491.The reason children and young people are watching less live TV is of course that they increasingly prefer social media. Dr Downs told us that through marketing on their personal social media, children and young people are exposed to advertisements and offers related to gambling, and added: “I have personal experience with my 16 year old son getting gambling adverts appear on his Instagram feed. Many children lie about their age on their social media accounts and thus are vulnerable to seeing adverts or receiving marketing that are not age appropriate.”525

492.Mr Parker told us that the ASA launched their avatar monitoring in 2019. They designed profiles that mimicked the behaviour of children of different ages: very young children, children aged eight to 12, and young teenagers. They used the avatars on hundreds of websites and video-sharing platforms, and gathered and analysed the advertising that was served to them. During the two-week period of monitoring:

“We found examples of gambling advertising that should not have been served to those children … There were 10,754 times that ads were served to the child avatars across 24 websites and 55 YouTube channels clearly aimed at children … Gambling ads were served to the child avatars on 11 of the children’s websites monitored [where] they were seen … a combined total of 151 times. … One of the gambling operators—a company called Vikings Video Slot—was responsible for 122 of those 151 ad impressions in that two-week period. It was being very careless and not filtering when it should.”526

493.We have explained in the previous chapter how exposure to gambling at an early age can lead to problem gambling in later life. Although the link between an increase in gambling advertising and greater gambling-related harm has not been established, we have no difficulty in concluding that gambling advertising seen by children and young people may have serious repercussions later in their lives.

494.The Government should commission independent research to establish the links between gambling advertising and gambling-related harm for both adults and children.

Sport and advertising

495.Much betting is of course on sport, and cannot take place without sport, as many operators discovered to their cost while horseracing, football matches and other sports were unable to take place. The evidence from the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers,527 the BHA528 and the English Football League (EFL)529 was received in September 2019. When on 28 January 2020 we took evidence from Alex Frost, the Chief Executive of the UK Tote Group, Robin Grossmith, the Director of the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers, Nigel Roddis, the Managing Director of BritBet Racing, and Nick Rust, the Chief Executive of the BHA, none of them of course anticipated the current situation. Even Professor David Forrest, who at our request gave us written evidence, dated 24 March 2020, on the relationship between sport and betting,530 made no mention of the Covid-19 lockdown which had then just begun. Few people then foresaw just how different life was going to be on every front, not least live sports. This part of our report is therefore based on the evidence we have from the recent past, in the hope and expectation that it will again be relevant in the not too distant future.

496.Many operators can concentrate on eSports and virtual sporting events instead of real sports, and to some extent have done so, but for on-course racing, and especially horseracing and greyhound racing, the closure of venues has been, and for some still is, little short of disastrous. We deal with the special position of horseracing and greyhound racing later in this chapter.

497.A brief visit to any operator’s website will show that there is no sport which one cannot gamble on. The much-used expression “gamblification of sport” is usually applied to football. While the evidence we received related only to football, horseracing and greyhound racing, our conclusions and recommendations apply to all sports advertising.

498.There is more to sports advertising than TV or online: Dr Sharman and Professor Turner “analysed the proportion of pages in matchday programmes for premier league and championship matches that contained gambling adverts and incidental exposure and found that gambling marketing was found on over 20% of pages. When examining the child specific sections of programmes, over 50% had gambling marketing exposure.”531

Complex sports betting

499.The traditional bet on a football match was simply on which team would win: a “home-draw-away” bet. There is no key feature distinguishing a home-draw-away bet between different bookmakers, and odds comparison sites allow gamblers to find the bookmaker offering the most attractive odds. The house edge on home-draw-away bets was a constant 10.5% in the late 1990s, before falling to a range of 5–6% in the mid-2010s.532

500.However only 7.8% of the live-odds advertising shown by three bookmakers over the World Cup in 2014 was for home-draw-away bets. A majority of live-odds advertising focused on “complex bets” which pay off only if some quite specific set of events occurs. For example, a bet can be advertised on the home team to win by three goals to nil, called a “correct score” bet, which featured in 35.9% of World Cup 2014 live-odds advertising on TV. “First/next goalscorer” bets are another complex bet category, requiring the gambler to identify the player to score the next goal out of the 20 outfield players. These bets featured in 38.8% of World Cup 2014 live-odds advertising.533 A “scorecaster” bet pays out only if the gambler can correctly guess both the identity of the first goalscorer and the correct score of the match.

501.Complex bets can naturally offer bigger payoffs on successful bets, which consumers find attractive. However betting odds from the mid-2010s reveal a much higher house edge, in a range of 21.9%–23.2% for correct score bets. By comparison, the house edge in European roulette is 2.7%, which forms the basis of many electronic gambling machine games. Picking the bets featuring most frequently in live-odds advertisements could increase a gambler’s rate of losses by a multiple of around five times compared to traditional football bets, or around 12 times compared to roulette.534

502.We have used football as the example, because that is where most research has been done, but complex bets are also possible for many other sports. They all have this in common, that the house edge is much higher than for traditional simple bets, but that nevertheless gamblers are increasingly attracted to them. It is not hard to see why advertising concentrates on them.

Interdependence of sport and betting

503.The EFL emphasised the importance to them of the sponsorship agreement they have had with Sky Bet535 since 2013/14, which is likely to continue until 2023/24 at least.536 They told us that Sky Bet had been an excellent partner to football and the EFL. In addition, more than 60 of their clubs also have co-existing arrangements with competitor betting brands (some including front of shirt sponsorship) and beyond that many carry paid-for advertising on pitchside perimeter boards and in matchday programmes.

504.The EFL said: “Professional football clubs are an integral part of the towns and cities from which they take their name and, in many, deliver the biggest single form of communal activity in their local area.”537 We do not doubt this. However, part of the community activity will be families, including children, going to matches and seeing the shirt sponsorship, the perimeter boards and the programmes. They may not be specifically targeted at children, but there is no way children can avoid seeing them.

505.Arsenal has just extended its £200 million shirt sponsorship deal with Emirates until 2024;538 Chelsea has a similar 5 year deal with Yokohama Rubber for £200m, which will come to an end this season;539 and Manchester United has a 7 year deal with Chevrolet worth £450m, which comes to an end next year.540 Despite this, Professor David Forrest told us that although the Premier League has the highest value sponsorships, its dependence on this source of income is low. The typical value of a shirt sponsorship deal for an English Premier League club is only £5m–10m per year, while even the weakest club in the division would receive more than £125m thanks mainly to broadcasting rights income. On the other hand, in the EFL and in Scottish football, and in less high profile sports and competitions such as rugby league and snooker, “there is little incentive for brands from other sectors to invest: they do not pick up enough exposure to potential customers, in contrast to the betting industry, which has an unusual proportion of customers for its product concentrated in the viewing audience for a sports event.”541

506.Professor Forrest added:

“Many of these clubs and competitions would face difficulty in replacing their betting sponsors, compromising the scale at which they could operate and the quality of talent they could attract. It is striking that in jurisdictions which have moved against sponsorship and advertising by the betting sector—Australia and Italy—opposition from the betting industry has been muted but that from sports leagues and broadcasters strong.542 This may reveal that betting houses themselves perceive their marketing as about brand share rather than extending the market and there would be some advantage to them from the state doing what competition law prevents them from doing for themselves—negotiating away heavy marketing budgets which just cancel each other out. However, sports leagues will typically fight against restrictions because their finances are precarious … English football has the largest structure of professional clubs in the world and shrinkage would likely take the form of fewer towns being served by a professional club.”543

The whistle-to-whistle ban

507.In August 2019, the gambling industry’s voluntary ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban on advertising came into force. Under this agreement, no gambling advertising is shown during live sport televised before the 9pm watershed for a ‘whistle-to-whistle’ period beginning five minutes before the start of the match and finishing five minutes after the match has ended. However, this ban does not apply to advertising for betting on horseracing or betting on greyhound racing. Much has been made of this ban by some operators. Sky told us that this, together with an earlier limit of the number of sports betting advertisements to one per break, had had “a very significant impact on the number of TV adverts served, particularly to younger audiences. August 2019, the first month of the new football season, saw a drop of 84% in the number of TV adverts placed before the 9pm watershed.”544 Flutter, who are also part of the group that undertook the whistle-to-whistle ban, additionally decided to remove Paddy Power and Betfair advertising on perimeter LEDs and interview boards at UK football matches.545

508.GVC have gone further still. Their CEO, Kenny Alexander, told us:

“We have ended all our shirt sponsorship and perimeter advertising. My view on it is this: what is the difference between an advert 10 minutes before a game and gambling ads whistling all around the park when most people are watching the game? We have ended it. As I said earlier, I think that gaming companies’ adverts are too much in the face of consumers. Perimeter adverts, shirt sponsorship and TV advertising are areas where I feel that it needs to be seriously curtailed.”546

509.We were told of evidence from Australia:

“In early 2018, Australia implemented a ban on gambling advertising in live sport … Children still saw gambling advertising … before and after sporting matches, and also saw gambling advertising outside of sporting programs, including on social media platforms. They also saw other forms of promotions for gambling, such as shirt sponsorship, gambling logos on hoardings, and embedded advertising on signage on the sports court or field.”547

510.We wholly agree that a ban from five minutes before to five minutes after a match is of very limited use when viewers, including children, can throughout the match see a plethora of gambling advertising on shirts and on the perimeter—and when they are in any case likely to be watching outside that whistle-to-whistle time. We suspect that Professor Forrest may be right in thinking that operators are happy to cease advertising if they can be sure that other operators will do the same.

A later watershed

511.Restrictions on some forms of gambling advertising, like the whistle-to-whistle ban, apply only before the 9pm watershed. After the watershed anything goes, so long as it is “legal, decent, honest and truthful”. Some of our witnesses would like to see a total ban before the watershed, and some would like to see a later watershed for gambling advertising. The first category includes the Gauselmann Group, a German gaming and gambling company, who “would also like to see the 9pm watershed extended to cover all forms of gambling and limited thereafter,”548 and the Evangelical Alliance, who “continue to believe that a ban on gambling advertising before the 9pm watershed is justified.”549 The Royal College of Psychiatrists believe that “gambling adverts should be banned from any daytime TV. The watershed should be increased to 11 o’clock, and certainly no gambling adverts at any time near sporting events.”550

512.There are parallels with advertisements for products affecting childhood obesity. In November 2019 the Select Committee on Communications and Digital published a report551 in which it discussed the potential impact of the Government’s proposals. The Committee stated: “We do not think that there is sufficient evidence that the proposed ban on high in fat, salt and sugar advertising before the 9pm watershed would significantly reduce childhood obesity. We are concerned that such a blanket ban could undermine the funding model of commercial broadcasting in the UK without delivering significant benefits to children’s health.” Mr Parker, though discussing online advertising, made this point: “It is already against our rules to target [online] advertising at people who are under 18. That renders the concept of a watershed rather redundant … ”.552

513.We are not persuaded that a change in what can be broadcast before the watershed, or the timing of the watershed in relation to gambling advertising, would on its own have much effect, beneficial or otherwise.

A ban on all advertising of gambling

514.Apart from the industry, Ministers were among the very few witnesses to argue positively against a total ban on gambling advertising, writing: “Advertising is one of the ways that [gambling companies] are able to compete for market share. It is also one of the primary advantages that licensed and regulated operators have over the black market. Prohibiting all gambling advertising would undermine our ability to keep those who choose to gamble safe when doing so.”553

515.Although a number of witnesses advocated restrictions on gambling advertising, none went as far as calling for a total ban. Dr Atherton called for “greater regulatory control and … statutory restrictions on where and how gambling products may be advertised, similar to restrictions on the advertising of tobacco and alcohol.”554 Professor Hörnle suggested that “it should be considered whether online advertising of gambling should be prohibited,”555 but made no similar suggestion for other advertising. Professor Orford wrote: “The precautionary principle should prevail here. Prevention of harm should take precedence over other considerations. The minimum change that is needed to protect children and young people is a ban on any gambling promotion which is especially likely to be seen or heard by under-18s.” He thought that in any new legislation “advertising should be dealt with thoroughly in all its forms.”556 But even he did not call for an outright ban.

516.It is now accepted that any smoking, even on a small scale, is a risk to health, and tobacco advertising has been prohibited for 15 years. However, the gambling evidence base is less clear-cut, and there have as yet been no sufficiently high-quality studies investigating whether gambling-related harm increases even for small levels of gambling. We have already set out the many arguments in favour of restricting advertising, especially at times and in places where it is likely to be seen by children and young people, but we do not believe there is any justification for an outright ban.

Sports kit and sports grounds

517.As we have said, we believe that a change in the watershed would have as little impact as the whistle-to-whistle ban. On the other hand, banning the sponsorship of sports shirts and kits, and banning the advertising of gambling on or near sports grounds, would in our view be very beneficial, but it would of course mean that gambling companies would no longer have much incentive to sponsor football clubs.

518.It seems that the removal of sponsorship would not unduly harm Premier League clubs,557 but it would very probably have a serious effect on smaller clubs; some of those in the EFL might go out of business without this sponsorship if they cannot find alternatives.558 This would be highly regrettable, especially given the close link between some of these clubs and their local communities. The financial situation of some of them is currently particularly fragile because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on sport. We therefore think they should be given time, perhaps three years, to adapt to the new situation. They would not be allowed in that time to enter into new sponsorship contracts with gambling companies, but any existing contracts could continue until they terminate, and clubs would have time to seek alternative sources of sponsorship.

519.We have considered what the impact would be on on-course betting and horseracing if a ban on advertising on or near sports grounds were extended to racecourses. There are a number of important ways in which on-course bookmakers are different to off-course and online bookmakers, including:

520.The BHA told us that they are an industry which is heavily interlinked with the UK betting sector. “Gambling advertising, targeted at adults, is a key aspect of the funding model for FTA broadcasting of sport on UK television, generating revenues for broadcasters to allow them to bid for sports rights and ITV Racing is no exception. It is wholly appropriate—provided that responsible gambling messaging is included and that the content and tone of the advert is suitable—for opportunities to bet responsibly on British racing to be advertised during broadcasts of the sport.”560

521.We asked Mr Grossmith to explain what impact any attempt to treat on-course bookmakers in the same manner as off-course or online bookmakers would have on their businesses and on the wider horseracing industry. He told us that it would make a massive difference:

“ … we are a community of 400 on-course bookmakers, 398 of which are small, family firms—often husband and wife teams, father and son teams … We offer one product and one product only: that is betting on the race. Our off-course colleagues have a vast number of things to bet on, such as different sports, and even different types of bets on horseracing.”561

522.The Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising recognises British racing’s “inherent links with the gambling industry, which is not the case with other sports” and means that it is exempt from the new ‘whistle to whistle’ advertising regulations.562 The BHA believes that it is highly questionable whether any further restrictions on advertising of betting around horseracing broadcasts would be effective, and adds: “It is notable that there is international precedent for this position. Since March 2018, a ban on gambling advertisements during live sport in Australia has been in place, but this also includes an exemption around horseracing events.”563

523.There is also a case for exempting greyhound racing from this ban. The Rank Group told us that in greyhound racing, as in horseracing, “betting continues to underpin the core finances”.564 Brigid Simmonds said that “greyhound racing would probably not exist in this country” without the contribution of the gambling industry.565

524.Gambling operators should no longer be allowed to advertise on the shirts of sports teams or any other part of their kit. There should be no gambling advertising in or near any sports grounds or sports venues, including sports programmes.

525.These restrictions should not take effect for clubs below the Premier League before 2023. A similar flexibility should be allowed in the case of other sports.

526.These restrictions should not apply to horseracing or greyhound racing.

Bet to View

527.Bet to View inducements, allowing gamblers to watch sport—usually football—if but only if they have bet with a particular company, are nothing new. In July 2017 the Football Association (FA) announced that they would no longer have a betting partner, having terminated a contract with Ladbrokes worth around £4 million a year following a string of high-profile gambling controversies in the sport. There was therefore both surprise and widespread dismay when on 7 January 2020 it emerged that Bet365 had since the start of the season been allowing football fans to watch matches if they placed a bet with them: “You can now watch live sport on your iPhone, iPad or Android device including Soccer, Tennis, Basketball, Snooker, Darts, Cricket and Squash. All you need is a funded account or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify.”566

528.The FA explained that the media rights deal predated the decision to stop partnering with betting companies: “The FA agreed a media rights deal with IMG in early 2017, part of which permits them to sell the right to show live footage or clips of FA Cup matches to bookmakers. Bet365 acquired these rights from IMG to use from the start of the 2018–19 season.” Any review of this by the FA would have to wait for the media rights sales process ahead of tendering rights to the new cycle from the 2024–25 season onwards. Leagues and clubs continue to govern their own relationships with gambling companies.567

529.On 9 January, in reply to an urgent question from Carolyn Harris MP, Nigel Adams MP, then the Minister for Sport, Media and Creative Industries, said:

“The Government have asked the Football Association to look at all avenues to review this element of its broadcasting agreement. I have received several commitments from the Football Association: it will not renew the deal when it comes up and it is also looking at all options to see if the current deal can be restricted.”568

The Minister made clear that similar arrangements with betting companies applied to many other sports. Subsequently the Gambling Commission announced that they were investigating the matter. The outcome of that investigation is not known.

530.The social responsibility code of practice must be amended to prohibit licensees from offering bet to view inducements, such as making the watching of a sport conditional on having an account with a gambling operator or placing a bet with an operator.

531.The consequence of this will be that the Football Association, any other body with the rights to show football matches, and any body with similar rights in relation to other sports, will no longer be able to sell those rights to licensed gambling operators. We hope that they will see the wisdom of not attempting to sell those rights to unlicensed operators.

Other inducements

532.Every business seeks to attract customers to start buying with them, to continue doing so, to buy more and to buy more often than they otherwise might. The betting operators are leaders in this field. But in the case of gambling, those who buy more will be those who lose more.

533.As we have said, it is one of the rules of the ASA that gambling advertisements (wherever they appear) should not undermine safe gambling and should be socially responsible. The rules aim to do that by ensuring that the content does not exploit vulnerabilities associated with gambling.569

534.There is no way in which all such advertisements could be identified. They would include offers of “free” bets to attract new customers, or better odds offered to new customers, more attractive odds offered for a brief period, or advertisements that create an inappropriate sense of urgency, such as those including “bet now” offers during live events. Such advertisements are impossible to define or to list exhaustively, but they are easy to identify. Advertising, like gambling, must follow the licensing objectives: it must be conducted in a fair and open way, and must not exploit the susceptibilities of children or other vulnerable persons.

535.Advertisements which are objectively seen as offering inducements to people to start or to continue gambling, or which create a sense of urgency about placing bets, should be banned. The Advertising Standards Authority and the Gambling Commission must act together to police this ban.

Direct marketing

536.We explained at the start of this chapter how 80% of all gambling marketing activity is now on the internet, with companies spending five times more online than on television. How much of this internet activity consists of marketing messages directly aimed at a particular individual, or small and identifiable groups of individuals, is not known, but the figure is likely to be a substantial proportion of the £747 million spent on direct online internet marketing.

537.As was clear to us from the evidence of the witnesses with lived experience,570 those who are vulnerable to advertisements for gambling products are especially susceptible to messaging which seems to be addressed to them personally. Even if such messaging is generated automatically, a communication which appears to be personalised is particularly attractive. We have quoted at some length in Chapter 5 the evidence given to us by Michelle Singlehurst, one of our witnesses with lived experience, who told us of the direct marketing approaches made to her while self-excluded. We also quoted the evidence of Lydia Thomas, the producer of BBC4’s You and Yours, telling us of examples of direct approaches made to customers showing clear evidence of problem gambling, urging them to gamble more.

538.The BBC Panorama programme Addicted to Gambling571 told the stories of three problem gamblers, all of whom had been subjected to direct personal marketing. One customer, who lost £633,000 over a six-year period, told Panorama that Jackpotjoy was continually offering her free cash bets to continue gambling with the operator. Jackpotjoy issued a £1,000 cash bonus after finding out her father had died, as well as calling and e-mailing when she had gone a day without gambling. A Jackpotjoy spokesperson said: “We have informed Panorama we are deeply sympathetic to the unfortunate personal circumstances experienced by the customer during their playing period with us. As a loyal customer, we had frequent and personal engagement with her over the course of six years, which involved advising on and encouraging the use of our responsible gambling tools.”

539.Gambling companies, like all businesses, need to communicate with their customers, but the communications should not include marketing of any sort unless in reply to a specific question from the customer. Approaches like the ones we have described are indefensible.

540.The young are particularly vulnerable, as Professor Samantha Thomas and her colleagues told us:

“Importantly, it is inducement marketing that appears to significantly influence young people’s attitudes towards wagering, and in particular the risks associated with wagering. Young people perceive that inducement promotions (such as free or bonus bet promotions, or cash back offers) allow individuals to try gambling without the risk of losing money. In another study, young people believed that inducement promotions could lead people to believe that they would not lose money when they were gambling. For example, one child stated that these promotions meant that people were unlikely to get “ripped off”. Another girl [aged 13] from this study stated: “They tell you to spend money on it and they say you have guaranteed money back. So it’s trying to reassure that you won’t lose, and it’s on in every ad break.” Studies in both Australia and the United Kingdom have demonstrated that about 75 per cent of young people perceive that gambling was a normal or common part of sport.”572

541.The licence conditions should be amended to prohibit operators from sending communications offering inducements to bet to individuals, or identifiable groups of individuals, unless they have agreed to take part in VIP schemes (by whatever name these are called) which satisfy the conditions currently in force or any stricter conditions which are imposed.

507 GambleAware, ‘Press Release: Gambling companies spend £1.2 billion marketing online, five times more than on television ads’, 24 November 2018 :–11-24-gambling-marketing-online-five-times-tv-ad-spend.pdf [accessed 4 May 2020] The figures were derived from audited accounts of the top publicly listed operators and other available financial data for private and offshore companies.

508 Q 106 (Phil Cronin)

509 Q 106 (Simon Wykes)

510 Q 168 (Guy Parker)

511 Q 130 (Dan Taylor)

512 Q 106 (Phil Cronin)

513 Written evidence from Advertising Standards Authority (GAM0059)

514 Advertising Standards Authority, UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) p 77: [accessed 24 May 2020]

515 Licence conditions and codes of practice, Part II: Social responsibility code provisions 5.1.6 and 5.1.7

516 Advertising Standards Authority, Gambling advertising: responsibility and problem gambling, Advertising Guidance (non-broadcast and broadcast) (April 2018): [accessed 4 May 2020]

517 Written evidence from the Advertising Standards Authority (GAM0059)

518 Ibid.

519 Q 167 (Guy Parker)

520 Ibid.

521 Advertising Standards Authority, Children’s exposure to age-restricted TV ads (1 February 2019): [accessed 4 April 2020]

522 Written evidence from Ipsos MORI, Professor Agnes Nairn and Josh Smith (GAM0069)

523 Ipsos MORI on behalf of GambleAware, Final Synthesis Report: The effect of gambling marketing and advertising on children, young people and vulnerable adults (March 2020): [accessed 4 April 2020] and Ipsos MORI on behalf of GambleAware, Final Synthesis Report Executive Summary: The effect of gambling marketing and advertising on children, young people and vulnerable adults (March 2020): [accessed 4 April 2020]

524 Written evidence from Ipsos MORI, Professor Agnes Nairn and Josh Smith (GAM0069)

525 Written evidence from Dr Carolyn Downs (GAM0049)

526 Q 163 (Guy Parker)

527 Written evidence from the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers (GAM0008)

528 Written evidence from the British Horseracing Authority (GAM0065)

529 Written evidence from the English Football League (GAM0082)

530 Written evidence from Professor David Forrest (GAM0123)

531 Written evidence from Dr Steven Sharman and Professor John Turner (GAM0037)

532 Philip Newall, Ankush Thobhani, Lukasz Walasek and Caroline Meyer, ‘Live-odds gambling advertising and consumer protection’, PLOS One, vol 14(6), (June 2019):

533 Ibid.

534 Ibid.

535 Sky Bet is one of the brands operated by Sky Betting and Gaming: see written evidence from Sky Betting and Gaming (GAM0085).

536 Written evidence from the English Football League (GAM0082)

537 Ibid.

538 Bill Wilson, ‘Arsenal and Emirates in £200m shirt sponsorship extension’, BBC News (19 February 2018): [accessed 4 April 2020]

539 Owen Gibson, ‘Chelsea seal £200m shirt sponsorship deal with Yokohama Rubber’, The Guardian (26 February 2015): [accessed 13 May 2020]

540 Simon Peach, ‘Manchester United chasing lucrative shirt sponsor as Chevrolet deal nears end’, Independent (10 October 2019): [accessed 4 April 2020]

541 Written evidence from Professor David Forrest (GAM0123)

542 On 6 April 2020 it was reported that Italian football clubs had asked the Government to suspend for 12 months the law prohibiting gambling sponsorship and advertising during the Covid-19 pandemic: Tom Daniels, ‘Italian sport leaders unite in attempt to restore betting advertising’, Insider Sport (6 April 2020): [accessed 4 April 2020]

543 Written evidence from Professor David Forrest (GAM0123)

544 Written evidence from Sky (GAM0053)

545 Written evidence from Flutter Entertainment Plc (GAM0055)

546 Q 133 (Kenny Alexander)

547 Written evidence from Associate Professor Samantha Thomas, Dr Hannah Pitt and Professor Mike Daube (GAM0097)

548 Written evidence from the Gauselmann Group (GAM0096)

549 Written evidence from the Evangelical Alliance (GAM0072)

550 Written evidence from the Royal College of Psychiatrists (GAM0091)

551 Select Committee on Communications and Digital, Public Service Broadcasting: as vital as ever (1st Report, Session 2019, HL Paper 16)

552 Q 165 (Guy Parker)

553 Supplementary written evidence from HM Government (GAM0135)

554 Written evidence from Dr Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer for Wales (GAM0006)

555 Written evidence from Professor Julia Hörnle (GAM0034)

556 Written evidence from Professor Jim Orford (GAM0019)

557 Written evidence from Professor David Forrest (GAM0123)

558 Written evidence from English Football League (GAM0082)

559 Written evidence from the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers (GAM0008)

560 Written evidence from the British Horseracing Authority (GAM0065)

561 Q 113 (Robin Grossmith)

562 Industry Group for Responsible Gambling, Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising, 5th Edition (January 2019) para 34: [accessed 4 May 2020]

563 Written evidence from the British Horseracing Authority (GAM0065)

564 Written evidence from the Rank Group Plc (GAM0029)

565 128 (Brigid Simmonds)

566 Bet365, ‘Watch live sport on the move’: [accessed 27 April 2020]

567 Statement by the Football Association, 8 January 2020 see: ‘FA Cup: Culture secretary calls for FA to reconsider betting deal’ BBC News (8 January 2020): [accessed 16 June 2020]

568 HC Deb, 9 January 2020, col 605

569 Written evidence from the Advertising Standards Authority (GAM0059)

570 QQ 50–70 (Owen Baily, Alex Macey, Tony Parente and Michelle Singlehurst)

571 Nathan Joyes, ‘Jackpotjoy does not deny BBC claims over customer who lost £633,000’, Gambling Insider (12 August 2019): [accessed 28 April 2020]

572 Written evidence from Associate Professor Samantha Thomas, Dr Hannah Pitt and Professor Mike Daube (GAM0097)

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