Gambling companies deny agreement reached on live broadcast ad ban

Bet365, Betfred, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill are among betting brands considering a ban on “whistle-to-whistle” gambling ads but no deal has yet been finalised.

Britain’s biggest gambling companies have denied that they have agreed to ban adverts airing during live sports broadcasts.

The BBC reported earlier today (6 December) that The Remote Gambling Association (RGA), which has members including Bet365, William Hill, Betfred, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power, had struck a deal to ban “whistle-to-whistle” television advertising. However, the organisation has since denied such a deal has been reached.

RGA CEO Clive Hawkswood told that “the BBC have got it wrong. There is no agreement on any proposals yet let alone an announcement”.

It is understood that measures being discussed include a total ban on pre-watershed advertising, banning ads promoting in-play odds and the restriction of gambling ads to one slot per commercial break. However, no decision has yet been taken and if it was would take at least six months to come into force.

The bans would not include horse racing.

Kenny Alexander, chief executive of Ladbrokes and Coral owner GVC, spoke out in October in favour of a ban on gambling ads. It is thought increasingly likely that if the industry does not take action the government may legislate to do so.

The government has already praised a ban on whistle-to-whistle ads. The secretary of state for digital, culture, media and aport, Jeremy Wright, called it a “welcome move”.

“Gambling firms banning advertising on TV during live sport is a welcome move and I am pleased that the sector is stepping up and responding to public concerns,” he adds.

There is growing concern about the number of gambling ads appearing during live sport. Speaking to Marketing Week last year, the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) chairman Lord David Currie raised concerns about the “gamblification of sport” following the decision to legalise gambling advertising 10 years ago.

Recently, Sky acted to reduce the number of ads during live sport on its channels with plans to allow just one gambling ad per commercial break, while there will be an ability to opt out to not see any gambling ads at all.

The Gambling Commission says it would “welcome any steps to address public concerns about gambling advertising. Last month we brought together senior leaders from over 100 gambling companies to look at how they can work together to make gambling fairer and safer, including considering the approach they take to advertising. We look forward to hearing about the industry’s plans.”

According to figures from the body, 430,000 people suffer from a serious habit with the number of British over-16s  problem gamblers growing by a third between 2014 and 2017.

READ MORE: ASA chairman speaks out about the ‘gamblification of sport’

Marc Etches, CEO of charity GambleAware, adds: “We have been saying for a long time now that gambling is being increasingly normalised for children. They are growing up in a very different world than their parents, one where technology and the internet are ever present.

“While we welcome this move by betting companies, it is important to pay attention to analysis that shows the marketing spend online is five times the amount spent on television. The fact that it is reported one in eight 11 to 16 year olds are following gambling companies on social media is very concerning.”

There are already rules in place to limit the targeting of ads at children or ads that appeal to children. An ASA spokesperson says: “We have in place strict evidence-based rules around gambling ads, such as the ban on targeting or appealing to children. It’s within the gift of industry to impose further restrictions on itself.”

Shares in gambling companies fell on  this morning in response to the BBC report, with GVC and 888 Holdings both dropping by 3%.