Sports stars will no longer be allowed to advertise gambling products in the UK from October. But there’s more to this rule change than you might think.
The Committee for Advertising Practice says that gambling ads featuring sports stars will be banned from October.
It certainly seemed, from the way the change was reported in the press, that it could mean an end to adverts like this one from Harry Redknapp.
“Who do you think will win the football later?”
“I don’t know, it’s a tough one to call, but what I would say to you is ignore all them pundits in their fancy suits…”
“Sorry, son, I didn’t mean you.”Bet Victor
But actually, it’s not so straightforward.
The wording of the new rule makes it clear that the change is focused on the protection of young people, those under 18.
And it will only ban those sports stars – as well as celebrities – who are likely to appeal strongly to children or young people, those who reflect or are associated with youth culture.
Examples named in the new policy are topflight footballers and footballers with a considerable following among under-18s on social media.
So, that’s probably not Harry Redknapp, then.
But it might mean ads like this one, featuring Jack Wilshere, could be stopped in future. It’s been viewed 3.4 million times on Twitter alone.
“Paddy Power’s retirement plans for Jack Wilshere.”
“I’m not retired.”Paddy Power
To find out more, I spoke to Matt Zarb-Cousin, a campaigner for Clean Up Gambling.
“First of all, there’s overwhelming public support for an outright ban on all forms of gambling advertising. The vast majority of people think that children shouldn’t be exposed to gambling advertising at all. And clearly, these new rules are a response to that but I think you have to look at the detail, really to understand beyond what’s been reported, that this isn’t really taking things much further than they already were.”Matt Zarb-Cousin
Current England players – who of course are part of the group that would appeal to under-18’s – are already banned from advertising gambling products.
A lot of the ex-players who currently advertise gambling websites are not of particular interest to children and teenagers. So what difference is this rule change really going to make?
And who decides which players – or ex-players – fall into that category?
“So it will still be a risk-based approach and it does give the gambling industry a lot of latitude in continuing some of these practices.”Matt Zarb-Cousin
How much of a problem is gambling in children?
A recent report by the Gambling Commission showed that 14% of 11-16 year olds had spent their own money on gambling in the week the survey took place.
That’s higher than the percentage of children who had spent their own money on cigarettes or illegal drugs over the same period of time.
Those under-16s who did make a bet spent an average of £16 in that week.
The same report said that 1.7% of all 11-16 year-olds were classed as “problem gamblers” while 2.2% were “at risk” of being in that category.
So, it’s true that there is a problem, and Matt Zarb-Cousin thinks more needs to be done.
“The evidence is overwhelming, in how gambling advertising is affecting the perception of gambling among children and clearly, the way that gambling advertising has been regulated has failed to protect the public…the wider population from gambling-related harm and most people want to see an outright ban and hopefully the government moves in that direction because this is frankly, too little, too late.”Matt Zarb-Cousin
Not everyone agrees with a blanket ban on gambling advertising.
Neil Banbury, who is the UK General Manager of the Kindred Group, which owns nine major betting brands, argues gambling is a normal activity, enjoyed by tens of millions of people.
He believes that this measure could drive gambling underground, making it harder to regulate and control. He does accept though, that there is room for improvement.
For those who are pushing for changes to the way gambling is advertised, there is some hope.
In a few months time, the government is due to publish its review on reforms to gambling laws.
Matt Zarb-Cousin says that will be crucial.
Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford and mixed by Xavier Greenwood.