Maria Miller suggests introduction of changes in the TV advertisements’ regulations, in order to ensure the protection of “children and vulnerable”.
Gambling advertising in the UK is currently flourishing, because all the major betting companies are trying to accumulate as much profit as possible before the introduction of a new tax at the end of this year.
Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture in the UK, commented that gambling ads could be restricted from enjoying TV broadcasting and she posed a question to the Advertising Standards Authority urging its members to think if such huge number of TV gambling commercials is “appropriate.”
She said she was concerned about the “seemingly constant” gambling ads on TV, and suggested that changes are necessary, so that “children and the vulnerable” are protected.
Currently, there are around 1.4 million ads per year, which means that four-year old children are exposed to them more than 200 times/year. The rise in the number of commercials was possible thank to the controversial Gambling Act introduced by the Labor party, which allows bookmakers, casinos and online gambling sites in the UK, to advertise at any time of day, when there are sports events.
If the TV ban of gambling ads proposed by the Conservatives makes it through, it will follow the example of the tobacco industry, which had similar faith back in 1991.
The Secretary of State for Culture in the UK urged for changes in the TV gambling ads regulations
• Maria Miller wants to protect “children and vulnerable”
• There are around 1.4 million gambling ads per year at the moment
• The government is waiting for a report on the effect of FOBTs before taking further measures
This potential ban is accompanied by other possible preventive gaming measures and change in the UK gambling laws, which were presented by UK PM, David Cameron, last week.
Some of the changes are intended towards the misuse of the fixed-odds betting terminals, which are known as the “crack cocaine of gambling”, due to their addictive effect on gamblers. FOBTs allow players to bet high sums for short periods of time.
Therefore, Miller said that she thinks that it will be good if all FOTB gamblers are informed when they spend certain amount money or when they have played for a definite amount of time.
Campaign for Fairer Gambling’s report and Miller’s reaction
A recent report of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling announced that UK bookies are aiming at reaching out to the most underprivileged people in the society, offering wide access to FOBTs, which earned the industry GBP 13 billion so far.
The study gave further details – it appears that in the 55 most deprived areas of the country, with high unemployment, low income and high crime levels, there are a total of 2,691 betting shops, which only confirms the worrisome reality.
Miller continued her observation of the problem gambling, presented in the media, and concluded that it is a “serious issue.”
She commented: “I think we need to look again at the regulation of gambling advertising across the UK. In particular, I ask myself if the seemingly constant gambling adverts on television are appropriate. The figures show a 600% increase in television gambling advertising between 2006 and 2012.”
She added: “This concerns me and I think many people feel uneasy about the current high levels. For this reason I have asked the ASA to review the codes for gambling advertising to see whether change is needed. The outcome of the review could see significant changes in the way gambling is advertised in Britain, ensuring children and the vulnerable are better protected.”
The ASA review may restrict the hours of betting ads, or even ban them completely. As far as the FOBTs are concerned, Miller praised bookmakers for the new voluntary code of conduct on FOBTs and new player protection mechanisms. They consist of termination of the game if voluntary limits are implemented, as well as alerts that appear on the machines’ screen, which tells the players that they’ve been playing for 30 minutes or when they’ve spent GBP 250.
Miller expressed her opinion: “This was a good step forward. However, these measures are part of a voluntary code, meaning that the decision still lies with individual bookmakers as to whether or not they will apply them. Given the serious concerns, this is clearly not enough.”
She continued: “Therefore, I have decided that these player protections must be made mandatory so that every bookmaker must abide by the new rules. I have asked the Gambling Commission to make sure this happens.”
On the same issue she said: “In the future, these rules will therefore form part of the operators’ license conditions and bookmakers will have to accept them or not be able to trade. The voluntary code is a good starting point but it needs to be tougher and enforceable. This will make sure it is.”
Moreover Miller posed a question to the Gambling Commission to take into consideration whether the GBP 250 limit is too high, and if the time interval before the alert appears, should be shorter than 30 minutes.
She commented: “Of course playing time is up to individuals but it needs to be a conscious choice and reminding players of the time they have been playing will stop them losing track of the time, and indeed of the money, they have spent.”
Miller also addressed gambling providers urging them to consider terminating all FOTBs ads on shop windows, and additionally asked the national system to let problem gamblers to ban themselves from betting shops.
She suggested: “The gambling industry is an important part of our economy but growth cannot be at any cost and this is about finding the right balance. I call upon the sector to put social responsibility at the heart of their businesses and ensure growth comes from customers who are fully in control of their gambling.”