Campaigners are calling for the government to ban betting adverts during sporting events and close the loophole that allows such firms to advertise before the watershed.
Research by the BBC Victoria Derbyshire show last year found that 95% of televised UK football matches featured at least one betting commercial during ad breaks. Tennis, rugby, golf, and other televised sporting events see similar levels of gambling advertisements.
The issue has been described by the Church of England as a “moral crisis” facing children. Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, opined to the Telegraph: “You cannot watch a game of football without seeing dozens of adverts which are selling a way of life. There is an exemption for gambling companies. That is an anomaly that needs to be closed. It’s dubious even after the watershed.”
A Gambling Commission report from December 2017 indicated 80% of 11-16-year-olds had seen gambling advertisements on television. Research into the impact of such advertising on young people, commissioned by Tory peer Lord Chadlington, found that more than 60% of teens said television commercials for Paddy Power and Bet365 made gambling look “fun” and nearly half (49%) said some adverts made gambling look like a good way to make money.
One country that is leading the charge to protect children from gambling advertisements is Australia. Despite being a country where the number of slot machines per head of population rivals that of Monaco and Macau, last week the federal government passed legislation that will prohibit promotions for Australian casinos and betting firms during pre-watershed sporting events. The ban will prevent broadcasters showing such advertisements from five minutes before the start of a sporting event until five minutes after between 05:00 and 20.30.
Whilst a ban on betting commercials during daytime sporting events might stop children seeing so many gambling advertisements, they will still be exposed to branding by the betting firms thanks to the increase in team sponsorship deals in recent years. For the 2017/18 season, gambling firms spent nearly £50m on Premier League team sponsorship deals, and feature on nine club shirts. Gambling firms are now the most common advertiser on English premier League team shirts, replacing the alcohol and electronics brands that have dominated shirt sponsorship in previous years.
Under current Football Association regulations, youth team shirts cannot carry advertising for gambling firms. However, critics argue such rules do not go far enough as thousands of children still buy replica team shirts emblazoned with gambling logos each year.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is currently carrying out a review of gambling in the UK.