Concerns over World Cup gambling ads

By Lydia Thomas
You and Yours, Radio 4

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image captionHarry Kane (second right) scored twice for England in their Group G victory against Tunisia

Almost every ITV-screened World Cup commercial break contains gambling advertisements, BBC research shows.

Radio 4's You and Yours programme found that most ad breaks in the matches so far contained at least one gambling advertisement, sometimes two.

Gambling firms said they too have concerns about how many gambling messages there are during live sport.

They say this will not change though, unless the government changes the current law.

Gambling commercials can be shown after the watershed at 9pm or during live sports fixtures.

Betfred, Skybet, Betfair, BetVictor, Paddy Power, Bet365, William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral are the biggest advertisers in the commercial breaks this World Cup.

The research analysed 11 games broadcast on ITV, each game contained six ad breaks. 62 of the 66 breaks contained one or more gambling advertisements.

Future problems

Matt Zarb-Cousin from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling wants gambling advertisements to be restricted during football games.

He said: "I think it's inappropriate before the watershed because children are seeing them... the response from the public is inevitable and we're storing up problems from the future."

Mr Zarb-Cousin was a problem gambler and says his problem was exacerbated by gambling advertisements: "Research from Australia found that children, when they're watching the football and they see the ads, they think you have to have a bet to enjoy the game. Australia then went on to ban the ads during sporting events."

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image captionMany fans will head to pubs to watch games, but those at home could encounter gambling adverts

Complaints jump

Viewers of the World Cup on ITV have expressed surprise on social media about the amount of gambling advertisements this week, but ITV said there were no more commercials this tournament than in previous ones.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says they have received complaints this year and they always see a jump in complaints during big sports tournaments.

But the watchdog only upholds complaints about the content of commercials, not the volume of them.

Craig Jones from the ASA said: "The gambling market was liberalised in the mid-2000s, the one area we don't have control over is the volume of the gambling ads, but where the ASA does kick in is the content and content of the ads."

Leprechauns and wizards

There are strict rules surrounding gambling advertising. Adverts must not appeal to children, portray gambling as seductive, or suggest gambling can be a solution to financial problems and get you out of debt.

Gambling companies regularly fall foul of the rules. This week the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against Coral for three games that featured cartoon characters of leprechauns and wizards.

The regulator said the games and marketing materials could appeal to children.

Over the past 12 months Foxy Bingo, William Hill, Ladbrokes, 888, and Casumo have all been fined for breaking advertising rules.

'Widespread unease'

The advertising watchdog recently introduced stricter rules banning gambling companies telling customers to "bet now" and ambiguous offers of free bets.

Craig Jones said: "You used to get kind of, tough guy content in ads where the message was 'bet now', 'these are the odds', 'get your bet in quickly.' We recently toughened the rules because we think that preys on people's impulse control and anything that trivialises gambling or underplays risk is also the wrong side of the line."

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image captionWilliam Hill is one of many gambling firms that are advertising heavily throughout the World Cup

Some gambling companies say they would like to see restrictions on the amount of gambling advertising shown on television.

William Hill told Radio 4's You and Yours it would like to see greater controls.

Gillian Wilmot, chairman of the Senet Group, a body set up by bookmakers to address concerns about problem gambling and advertising said: "There is widespread unease in the gambling industry at the volume and density of gambling adverts around live sport, but it is difficult to reduce this in a competitive market unless government decides to act."

The Department for Culture Media and sport said: "We have set out a package of measures to strengthen rules around gambling advertising.

"This includes responsible gambling messages appearing on screen throughout gambling ads and a multi-million pound campaign that will promote responsible gambling to be launched later this year. There are strict controls in place to ensure children are not targeted by gambling adverts."

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