Gambling advertising, self-regulation and UK betting ad limitation - Harry Lang speaks with EGR Mark
Sky TV has recently pledged to cut the number of gambling ads to one per commercial break, including during live sport, from the start of the 2019-20 Premier League season. Do you welcome this move? Does it go far enough because children will still see ads from Ray Winstone and co. extolling the virtues of having a bet on the match, but just fewer of them?
I certainly welcome the move although I suspect Sky, like many media owners before them with vice industries like alcohol and previously cigarette advertising are simply being proactive - self regulating before they're told to do so. Whether they're jumping before they're pushed or not, the betting advertising environment around sport was getting beyond a joke - it was a cluster of rather forgettable odds and in play markets in every ad break. Yes kids will still see one betting ad per break (and don't be in any doubt - Sky and its owners aren't going to lose out financially with their goodwill gesture - these premium spots are going to cost premium dollar) but between good KYC requirements from UKGC and advocacy of responsible gaming messages we're in a much better place than we were. This is progress - like FOBTs the days of daytime gaming ads are ultimately numbered.
EGR - Has Sky effectively done this to try to stave off a possible pre-watershed ban on betting ads? What do you consider to be the chances of a pre-watershed gambling ad ban in the future?
Absolutely - Sky wants to milk the gambling teat as long as possible, of course - this is one step to delay the inevitable. A total ad ban is a matter of when, not if. Gambling isn't populist enough amongst voters (and the downsides of problem gambling too negative for broad government support) for it to remain restricted to adult eyes only.
EGR - Do you expect other broadcasters like BT Sport, ITV and Channel 4 to follow Sky’s lead?
Most likely yes - they'll also recognise to the need to mitigate a blanket ban by self regulating and will perhaps see what happens to Sky's betting advertisers first, try and mop up a few new gaming clients then define their own approach.
EGR -And finally, has the gambling industry brought all this negative publicity and uproar around the amount of betting ads upon itself – do operators only have themselves to blame? Why?
It's happening, and nobody else is paying for these packed media schedules so yes, the operators are to blame however the moment you place a deadline on the ability to advertise you generate a land grab scenario. Sky and other broadcasters aren't exactly innocent parties, either - they don't exactly advertise for free do they? The UK betting environment is hugely competitive but also incredibly profitable meaning that operators are duty bound to do whatever they can within their powers to fill the leaking bucket of churned customers using any legal means possible. If these ads didn't generate a decent volume of new customers at an appropriate CPA then we wouldn't have this maelstrom of crappy ads boring everyone to death as they wait for the footy to come back on.