Sky is cracking down on TV gambling ads, limiting the number of ads from gambling companies that can appear during its programming and introducing new tools to protect people in the UK who are vulnerable to problem gambling.
From the start of the next Premier League season, a maximum of one gambling advert will be allowed per commercial break, including during live football on Sky Sports. The spots will instead be open to other brands and advertisers.
Sky is also developing its AdSmart technology to enable people to totally block gambling advertising when watching on Sky and Virgin Media TV platforms. This will happen from June 2020 across over 140 channels, including Sky Sports, when watching television platforms that have AdSmart enabled (currently Sky Q and Sky+HD, with Virgin Media to come in 2019).
The aim is to make it easier for people who have self-excluded from gambling operators or who have a gambling problem not to see gambling ads. Another person will not be able to block ads on somebody’s behalf.
Stephen van Rooyen, Sky’s UK and Ireland CEO, says: “Our customers are worried about gambling ads on TV – and we understand their concerns. That’s why we’ve committed to limiting the amount of gambling ads on Sky and better protecting those vulnerable to problem gambling.”
The restriction to one gambling advert per break and the ability to self-exclude from gambling advertising will apply to sports bookmakers, online casino and poker ads. And it will apply at all times of the day, including the middle of the night.
Research shows that the frequency and timing of gambling advertising – especially late at night when people with mental health problems are vulnerable and more likely to respond – can create challenges to gambling responsibly.
Gambling advertising on TV and radio was legalised 10 years ago. They can only be shown after the 9pm watershed, except during live sport. This has led to a huge increase in gambling ads around this content, with a BBC investigation earlier this year finding that 95% of TV ad breaks during live UK football matches feature at least one gambling ad and that in the worst cases one in three ads was for a gambling company.
Sky’s move comes as the government faces growing calls to ban gambling adverts before the 9pm watershed across all TV and radio content. Concerns have been raised that young people are being exposed to extraordinarily high levels of betting ads, particularly during live sport, which is in turn normalising and socialising gambling.
Others, however, argue that a blanket ban misses the point, especially given the fact that a lot of gambling occurs late at night.
The point of Sky’s mechanic is to give people the tools that will allow them to take control of their own problems and advertising, and help to protect themselves.
Sky will be looking to publicise the initiative through charities. As gambling is a public health issue, there are also clear opportunities to have a presence in NHS surgeries.
Sky will also continue to support GambleAware.
A report by the Gambling Commission estimates that the number of over-16s deemed to be problem gamblers has grown by a third in three years to around 430,000 people, although the rate of problem gambling is “statistically stable” at 0.8% of over-16s. More than two million are now estimated to be problem gamblers or at risk of addiction.