Gambling adverts will 'drown out' new warnings against betting - campaigners

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport
'Bet Regret' advert
The 'Bet Regret' advert will run during Sunday's Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool

New warnings about the dangers of gambling will be "drowned out" by betting adverts when they run during Premier League games, campaigners say.

The 'Bet Regret' campaign will feature during half-time of Manchester United's match against Liverpool on Sunday, but so too will adverts for betting firms.

"Safer gambling campaigns are not as effective as reducing gambling ads," said the Campaign For Fairer Gambling.

But Gamble Aware said this was "only the start" of its strategy.

The new adverts will also run during the Premier League games between Newcastle and Burnley on 26 February, and Chelsea and Tottenham on 27 February.

Gamble Aware is a charity funded by a voluntary levy on betting companies, but says it is independent of them.

The move to show the adverts comes after Britain's biggest gambling companies agreed to a "whistle-to-whistle" television advertising ban, which will come into force in August. It follows political pressure about the amount of betting advertising on TV.

More than 90 minutes of adverts were shown during the football World Cup and anti-gambling campaigners say sport's use of adverts "normalises" betting.

The Gambling Commission says there are 430,000 problem gamblers in Britain.

Trustee Professor Sian Griffiths told BBC Sport the 'Bet Regret' adverts were part of a wider Safer Gambling Campaign, commissioned by the government, to "moderate gambling for sports betters", and were the result of speaking to some of the 2.4 million men aged 16-34 who regularly bet on sport.

"The concept with Bet Regret is regretting bets because you're bored, drunk or chasing losses," she said.

"A lot of this is based on what betters have told us. One of the interesting things we found and when you talk to this group of young men, they are clear that they are not gambling, they are betting and they know what they are doing."

When asked if it was counter-intuitive to have betting adverts alongside those warning against betting, she added: "You have to allow people choice, and betting adverts aren't necessarily aimed at people with a gambling problem, they are aimed at the general public.

"The 'Bet Regret' adverts are aimed at the group of young men who might make those bets which then might lead to problems in the future."

Broadcasters are contributing the equivalent of £1.6m in airtime to the campaign, but in 2017 earned £234m from betting advertising and marketing, up from £155m in 2014.

Campaign for Fairer Gambling spokesperson Matt Zarb-Cousin said: "I look forward to seeing the campaign, and will judge it on own merits, but it looks a bit like a sticking plaster to justify maintaining the status quo on gambling advertising."

Liz Ritchie, co-founder of the charity Gambling with Lives - formed by parents to warn others about gambling-related suicide, added: "More consideration should have been given to the supposed target group for this campaign given that a high proportion are already problem gamblers - more than one in four according to Gambling Commission figures.

"Given that gambling addiction is highly correlated with suicidal feelings, messages should not in any way increase a sense of regret or self-blame and we call for a ban on all gambling advertising."

But Minister for Sport and Civil Society Mims Davies added: "This groundbreaking joint campaign will make people think hard about their betting habits, assist to remove the stigma around gambling addiction and give people more courage to say they need help."

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