How Football May Dive on the Bet Regret Campaign

Guy watching TV
New charity adverts that focus on the regret that gambling can give are to go live this weekend.

30-second summary

• “Bet Regret” campaign will be a feature during half-time
• Betting firms continue to advertise alongside the campaign
• Gamble Aware states it is “only the start” of their strategy
• Critics worry it won’t make a difference to the 430,000 problem gamblers in Britain

This weekend a new advertising campaign will go live during a Premier League match. The campaign will focus on the regret that many people, particularly men, say they feel once the bet is over.

There are concerns that the ad will be lost among the advertisements for online bookmakers that are still in play. While some say that it would be better to reduce the gambling ads altogether, concerns are being raised that the new warnings will simply be drowned out by their attractive adversary – the betting firms’ ads.

Gamble Aware – who are they?

Gamble Aware is a registered charity that is funded by the betting companies themselves via a voluntary levy placed on them. The companies are very clear about stating that Gamble Aware operates independently.

BBC Sport spoke with a trustee, Professor Sian Griffiths, about the charity’s latest campaign, Bet Regret. This is part of a much wider Safer Gambling Campaign commissioned by the government, which is based on speaking with approximately 2.4 million men aged 16-34 who make regular sporting bets.

Professor Griffiths said: “You have to allow people choice, and betting adverts aren’t necessarily aimed at people with a gambling problem, they are aimed at the general public. The Bet Regret adverts are aimed at the group of young men who might make those bets which then might lead to problems in the future. The concept with Bet Regret is regretting bets because you’re bored, drunk or chasing losses. A lot of this is based on what betters have told us. One of the interesting things we found and when you talk to this group of young men, they are clear that they are not gambling, they are betting, and they know what they are doing.”

However, there are critics such as Matt Zarb-Cousin, a spokesperson for the Fairer Gambling Campaign, who said: “I look forward to seeing the campaign and will judge it on own merits, but it looks a bit like a ‘sticking plaster’ to justify maintaining the status quo on gambling advertising.”

Feedback from the government is that the team behind the campaign has really listened. Mims Davies, the minister for sport and civil society, said: “This ground-breaking joint campaign will make people think hard about their betting habits, assist to remove the stigma around gambling addiction and give people more courage to say they need help.”

However, concerns have been raised by the co-founder of the charity Gambling With Lives, formed by parents to warn others about suicide relating to gambling, which warns: “Given that gambling addiction is highly correlated with suicidal feelings, messages should not in any way increase a sense of regret or self-blame and we call for a ban on all gambling advertising. More consideration should have been given to the supposed target group for this campaign given that a high proportion are already problem gamblers – more than one in four according to Gambling Commission figures.”

A staggering amount to be made

Anti-gambling campaigners say that sport’s use of adverts normalizes betting. With over 90 minutes of adverts being shown during the Football World cup, figures show that broadcasters in 2017 earned a staggering £234m ($305m) from marketing associated with betting, a huge jump from £155m ($202m) in 2014. However, compare that to their planned £1.6m ($2.9m) equivalent in air time given to the campaign, and there is a very real difference. The hope is that the message really will be heard.

The plan is to run the campaign during half-time of Manchester United’s match with Liverpool this Sunday, Feb. 24, and the Premier League games between Newcastle and Burnley on Feb. 26 and between Tottenham and Chelsea on Feb. 27.

Political concerns over the amount of betting advertising on TV, at a time where there are approximately 430,000 problem gamblers in Britain (according to the Gambling Commission) is a major reason that there is a move for change. In August, the television advertising ban will come into effect. Britain’s biggest gambling companies have agreed to a “whistle-to-whistle” ban. This current Bet Regret campaign is just the first step towards this and other aims.