UKGC Warns: Stop Ignoring Public and Political Mood Around Gambling Advertising



Staff member
May 3, 2008
Ian Angus, the Programme Director for Consumer Protection has given a speech at the Responsible Marketing for Gambling Operators Conference in London and advised gambling operators to stop ignoring all the signs they get from the public and politics if they want to avoid a gathering storm. He further suggests that a constructive and proper debate about the marketing and advertising of gambling activities is essential.

What Did the UKGC Director Say?

The advocate for Consumer Protection of the major regulatory body went on saying that it was difficult to uphold the current status quo and reminds that gambling advertising has become a burning issue in the past few months. There are parliamentary questions on the matter being filed repeatedly, every second week and media reports of the emerging of irresponsible and inappropriate advertising practices, which do more damage than good to the reputation of the entire industry. With that, he hints a potential danger to the entire industry, stating that there is a massive damage done so far with the pushy and excessive advertising.

In addition, Angus confirmed the speculation that the public’s mood over excessive gambling marketing is becoming worse. The negative influence that these gambling commercials can have on the younger population, children under the age of 18, is of prime concern to more and more people, including researchers and academics investigating the impact of children’s exposure to sports sponsorship and gambling advertising. All of this could have been stopped if only the gambling operators would listen to the public’s concerns and take into consideration a more responsible advertising rules compliance. He highlights that the well-established advertising rules clearly say that marketing promotions such as free bets and bonuses are misleading, and some gambling operators still promote their freebies although they were warned over and over again not to.

He went on and gave an example from 2017 when some adverts appeared that reported a "true story" (a fictional story) of a person who was saved by gambling and overcame some extremely serious personal problems with gambling. This was a highly misleading and, one may say, forbidden way to promote gambling. That is why this incident culminated in rigorous ASA rulings which banned some adverts. And yet, the gambling industry has not learned its lesson and should expect punishment, although this could have been prevented.

Why the Sudden Concerns Expressed by the Public and Politics?

It all started at the World Cup held in Russia this year. The excessive gambling advertising became a hot, widely-discussed topic following the accusations of a certain group of viewers that they were “literally bombarded” with ads and distracted from watching the biggest football competition in peace. This was then followed by millions of comments on social media agreeing with the viewers and stating that gambling advertising at that extent must end.

It is no wonder that Angus started warning operators now. This is a rapid response to the aggressive anti-gambling rhetoric from Deputy Leader Tom Watson who has recently proposed a wide ban on gambling advertising during live streamed sports events, and said that the Labour government has the power to actually do that. That is why Angus specifically says “Don’t wait for the storm clouds to burst”, meaning you’ve been warned by Watson, “and precautionary measures to be triggered”, meaning learn from the mistakes of the past and don’t let them do much worse things to you than just forbid your advertisements.

This forced the Labour Party to do something, which in return imposed a new code of conduct with stricter rules for gambling companies for gambling advertising during live sports events, which will take effect on October 31st.

Disagreeing Arguments by the RGA

The Remote Gambling Association (RGA) is in strong disagreement with the accusations that the gambling industry is ignoring such public and political warnings and claims that the accusations are unfair. RGA’s Chief Executive Officer Clive Hawkswood admits that there have been some “unfortunate lapses” in advertising standards compliance by certain gambling operators’ marketing campaigns and although he justifies the UKGC’s concerns and highlights of those lapses, he disapproves the accusations that the entire gambling industry is turning a blind eye to all the public disapproval and political warning signs.

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