UK Industry Opposes MPs’ Call for Total Gambling Ads Ban

  • Industry bodies reacted to APPG's report calling for extensive changes to UK gambling sector 
  • Advertising Authority’s chief executive maintained a total ban on advertising is unnecessary
  • BGC believes tougher measures would drive gamblers to unsafe black-market operators
  • UKGC deemed group's allegations that it is unfit to regulate online gambling sector “untrue”
one-way sign with dice in the background, indicating a gambling ban
UK industry bodies have responded to a report from MPs calling for a complete ad ban among other extensive restrictions on the gambling sector. [Image:]

A strong set of responses

The UK’s Advertising Association (AA), the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), and the Gambling Commission (UKGC) have issued responses in opposition to politicians’ call for a total ban on gambling advertising and in-play online sports betting. 

The All-Party Political Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm published its final report as part of its Online Gambling Harm Inquiry on June 15. Their extensive recommendations have caused a stir among the country’s industry bodies.

Total ban not necessary

In his comments, AA chief executive Stephen Woodford said the association believes a total ban is currently not necessary. He also warned that there would be wider implications following such a move. In particular, the proposed ban would affect the “support of sports across media channels, something enjoyed by millions of people right across the UK.”

there would be wider implications following such a move

Woodford did, however, acknowledge that all gambling operators need to adhere to the highest standards set out by the UKGC and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The two bodies consider all new evidence and make appropriate changes if and when needed.

Driving gamblers away

A spokesperson for the BGC highlighted how the majority of the 20+ million people who enjoy gambling do so in a safe manner. The council also noted that “the Regulator and the Government have both made it clear that there is in fact no evidence that problem gambling has increased.”

The response went on to detail the various changes the BGC has effected across the industry since it was set up as a standards body in 2019. The council said it is committed to continuously improving safer gambling standards going forward in collaboration with the government. 

no evidence that problem gambling has increased”

The BGC maintained that any measures that could drive people away from safely gambling through licensed online platforms must be avoided. It indicated that such restrictions could lead to a move towards “unregulated, offshore, black market, illegal operators that don’t conform to any standards or safeguards to protect problem gamblers and the most vulnerable.”

UKGC rebukes “not fit for purpose” claim

The UKGC rebuked claims made by the APPG that the regulatory body is “not fit for purpose”, insisting that the allegations were “untrue”. In the report, the cross-party group recommends an urgent review of the commission to assess its ability to effectively regulate the online gambling sector. 

In its response, the Gambling Commission noted the various limits it has introduced over the past two years to make the gambling sector safer, stressing how it works closely with industry groups on an ongoing basis. The restrictions imposed to date include a ban on credit card deposits, improvements to age and ID verification, and the strengthening of online advertising rules.

Other aspects of the APPG report

The APPG on Gambling Related Harm is made up of more than 50 UK Members of Parliament. As well as calling for a ban on gambling advertising and restricting in-play sports betting to in-person retail and over-the-phone wagers, the group has also presented other suggestions in its latest report

The Online Gambling Harm Inquiry has been ongoing since March 2019. Numerous public evidence sessions and meetings with the UKGC have taken place since.

The politicians concerned want to cap the maximum stake for an online slot machine bet to £2 ($2.51), get rid of VIP loyalty programs, have tighter controls on game design, and introduce independent customer affordability verification. The report also mentions the need to update the Gambling Act of 2005 to bring it in line with the current digital age.