Betting firms offer to co-fund a gambling addiction awareness advertising campaign

A number of betting firms, advertisers and broadcasters have made a formal offer to government to fund an advertising campaign aimed at raising awareness of gambling addiction.

The department for digital, culture, media and sport

The move is a response to the findings of a report by the DCMS, due to be released in the coming weeks. © Civil Service

Documents seen by the Guardian show that the Remote Gambling Association, the Senet Group, the Advertising Association, and TV channels will all be contributing to the £8m campaign. TV Channels will contribute by providing free air-time, rather than making a financial contribution.

The campaign is to be coordinated by the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG), whose members consist of casinos, bookmakers, and other gambling companies.

According to those involved, the national campaign aims to educate and raise awareness of problem gambling, while also highlighting how serious gambling companies are in tackling addiction to gambling. If all goes ahead, the campaign should launch in early 2018.

No alternative to regulation

In the coming weeks, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) will publish a review of the gambling industry. Industry groups have already had access to the report and this move is likely a direct response to the report’s findings. Furthermore, the offer comes just weeks after deputy leader of the Labour party, Tom Watson, pledged to crack-down on betting firms’ advertising rights, particularly in regards to sponsoring the shirts of football teams.

The sincerity of the offer is also being called into question. Many, including Watson himself, have highlighted the ‘worrying’ timing and raised concern that the campaign should not be an attempt by gambling firms to avoid reduced advertising rights and further regulation. Watson said:

There must be no stitch-up to help the gambling industry avoid tighter restrictions on advertising. Industry-funded campaigns highlighting the risks of problem gambling are all very well, but they can’t be an alternative to regulation. More and more research is showing that gambling addiction is a hidden epidemic in the UK. We can’t just rely on voluntary action from the betting companies to deal with the problem.Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour party

Watson isn’t the only one to view the campaign as an attempt by gambling firms to find an alternative to tighter regulation and advertising possibilities. The National Casino Forum, Bingo Association, and Bacta, have all declined to contribute on this basis.

A ban on pre-watershed advertising by gambling firms is one move favoured by many. Australia recently introduced one such ban and Britain could follow, after businessman Alan Sugar called for a total-ban on gambling adverts before the watershed cut-off in a House of Lord debate recently.

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