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UK – MPs call for cut to football gambling adverts to shield children from exposure

By - 2 January 2024

The Premier League and other sports governing bodies should commit to cutting the volume of gambling adverts in stadiums, MPs have said following a report that urges the Government to do more to minimise children’s exposure to gambling advertising.

The report on gambling regulation from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee concludes that the Government should take a more precautionary approach to advertising than that proposed in the gambling White Paper and that there is scope for further regulation. 

While welcoming the forthcoming voluntary withdrawal of gambling sponsorship from the front of Premier League players’ shirts, the cross-party Committee warns that this will not significantly reduce the volume of betting adverts visible during a game.

The report cites a recent study that found that front-of-shirt gambling branding consisted of just 7% of all that was visible during the ten broadcast matches surveyed, with a further study revealing that nearly 7,000 gambling messages could be seen during six matches surveyed on the opening weekend of the season.

MPs therefore recommend that the new gambling sponsorship code of conduct the Government proposes to develop with sports governing bodies should include provision both to reduce gambling adverts in stadia and require that a higher proportion of advertising is dedicated to safer gambling messaging.

There should however be a distinct approach to gambling sponsorship and advertising for horseracing and greyhound racing, given their close and long-standing relationships with betting.

Today’s report backs many of the provisions contained in the Government’s Gambling White Paper published earlier this year, including the principle of a new system of financial risk checks to be conducted by gambling operators on customer accounts that lose certain amounts of money within given timeframes. The Committee says however that there is work to do to ensure that they are minimally intrusive and protect financial data.

There is also support for the Government’s approach of establishing extra online protections 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.

Culture Media and Sport, Chair, Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, 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.”

The Government must set out a detailed timetable for the delivery of the White Paper’s proposals, with the Committee concerned that there was no mention of gambling legislation in the King’s Speech.

The Government and Gambling Commission should set out how they will address the growing trend of unlicensed gambling sites targeting the self-excluded. The Gambling Commission must also continue to work to improve its knowledge of the black market and its ability to monitor the number of British consumers gambling with illegal operators.

The Committee supports the principle of financial risk checks, but they must be minimally intrusive with customers’ financial data properly protected. There should be a pilot of the new system before the checks are fully implemented.

Stake limits for online slots should match those for electronic gaming machines in land-based venues and not exceed £5. Online deposit limits should be set by default and require customers to opt out rather than opt in.

The Government should review the case for banning children’s access to social casino games, which are often playable on smartphones and simulate gambling activities and products.

The Committee supports the proposed enhanced online gambling protections for young adults aged 18-24, namely triggering a financial risk check at a lower monetary loss threshold and limiting the stake for online slots to £2. The Government, Gambling Commission, and gambling operators must ensure these measures do not unintentionally lead to more adults in this age group giving a higher age at account-creation.

There is an urgent need to better understand the effects of gambling advertising on the risk of harm. The evidence for a link between advertising and gambling harm currently appears much stronger than evidence indicating there is a risk of displacement to the black market if gambling advertising were restricted. The Government must commission research on the link between gambling advertising and the risk of gambling harm, including specifically for women and children.

The report says the Government should have taken a more precautionary approach to gambling advertising in general – particularly to minimise children’s exposure. While a complete ban on gambling advertising would not be appropriate, there is still scope for further regulation beyond that proposed by the Government.

The Government should work with the Premier League and the governing bodies of other sports to ensure that the gambling sponsorship code of conduct contains provision to reduce the volume of gambling adverts in stadia. A higher proportion of gambling advertising in stadia should be dedicated to safer gambling messaging. The Government must require sports governing bodies to publish the code without further undue delay.

Customers who prefer to pay on electronic gaming machines using cash should continue to be able to do so on all machines following any introduction of cashless payments. The Government must ensure that the new settlement arising from the review of the Horserace Betting Levy mitigates the impact of the White Paper’s reforms on the racing industry and ensuring British racing’s future.

The Committee supports the proposed structure and governance of the new statutory levy to be imposed on operators in the industry to fund gambling research, prevention and treatment. The Government must ensure that service providers currently operating via the voluntary funding system are adequately supported in the transition to a statutory levy. There should be a new national strategy for reducing gambling harms.

A spokesperson for the BGC said: “We welcome the publication of the CMS Committee Report and its findings which reject proposals for a blanket ban on advertising, sports sponsorship and consumer promotions, which would harm our best-loved sports like horseracing and football, threaten jobs and drive customers to the growing unsafe, unregulated gambling black market online.

“The Government has previously stated research did not establish a causal link between exposure to advertising and the development of problem gambling. Betting advertising and sponsorship must comply with strict guidelines and safer gambling messaging, which promotes safer gambling tools and signposts help to those concerned about their betting, is regularly and prominently displayed.

“BGC agree with the Committee that the Sport Sponsorship Code, which will further drive up standards, should be published without delay.

“We also welcome the Committee’s support for many of the measures we campaigned for including the establishment of a new mandatory Ombudsman for the regulated sector, enhanced spending checks, reforms to modernise land-based casino gambling, and a mandatory levy to help fund research, prevention and treatment for those at risk of harm.

“The Committee are right to call for the Government to ensure that financial checks are “minimally intrusive”, ensuring that they do not unfairly impact on the enjoyment of the millions who bet safely and responsibly.”

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