MPs demand changes to gambling advertising standards

A group of cross-party MPs has called for gambling firms to display warnings about the potential harmful effects of betting much more prominently in advertisements.

Big Ben

MPs have suggested that sweeping reform is necessary in the industry. © Pexels.

The suggestions were included in an open letter addressed to Matt Hancock, the culture secretary, and cover issues that would constitute sweeping change towards compliance, fairness and social responsibility in how the industry can advertise its product.

The work was supported by the thinktank ResPublica, who authored the policy issues in a document titled: Watershed: Closing the loopholes in gambling advertising.

The group is calling for gambling to be recognised and treated as a public health issue, in much the same way as tobacco or alcohol. That would mean a stop to labeling gambling as fun in favour of tags such as harmful depicted during adverts.

The group has also advised a ban on gambling adverts during live sporting events, as these are seen by many individuals under the legal gambling age. This echoes calls from the Church of England made earlier in the year.

A section from the letter reads:

Gambling advertising should be consistent with other types of addictive or harmful products to public health such as cigarette packs, by featuring clearly identifiable health warnings that cannot be absorbed into an advert’s overall design. The wording of gambling advertisements is a problem because words such as ‘win’ and ‘fun’ are emphasised rather than ‘harm’, thus normalising the idea of gambling as a leisure pursuit rather than an addiction.Open Letter, ResPublica.

The group has also criticised affiliate marketing, where marketers use advertisements, sometimes disguised as news articles, to direct people to gambling sites so they earn a commission.

The letter calls for operators to have their licences taken from them should they be found to take part in that practice.

Speaking about the issue, Philip Blond, Director of ResPublica, said:

Government departments must pull together, just as they did to reduce smoking rates, because it will take concerted action, additional resources and a fundamental rethink of policy if we are going to tackle this growing and insidious problem.Philip Blond, Director of ResPublica.

You can read the letter in full at ResPublica’s website.

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