UK – Gambling firms’ social messages are ‘thinly veiled’ adverts

Gambling firms are undermining their pledge not to advertise during lockdown by showing “thinly veiled” commercials disguised as social responsibility messages, according to MPs who have urged the government to intervene.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), whose members make up the vast majority of the UK industry, vowed last month to suspend TV and radio ads in response to concerns that vulnerable people and children were at greater risk during Covid-19 isolation.

Instead, starting from last Friday, they promised to air:

“safer gambling” messages, detailing tools that customers can use to stop themselves losing control, such as cash deposit limits.”

In a letter to the culture minister, Nigel Huddleston, a cross-party group of MPs examining gambling-related harm said that the spots have proved to be little more than glorified adverts.
One, for the casino firm Mr Green, which is owned by William Hill ends: “Enjoy award-winning online casino with Mr Green.
Another, for Sky Betting & Gaming’s casino brand, ends: “That’s why I play at SkyVegas.”

Charles Ritchie of Gambling with Lives, a charity set up by families bereaved by gambling-related suicide, said:

“Instead of shouting ‘prohibitionist’ at anyone who wants a properly regulated gambling industry, the BGC should get their own members to act honourably and decently. The multiple adverts across all commercial TV channels on Saturday shows that the much trumpeted gambling advertising ban is just hypocritical PR and the gambling industry is incapable of self-regulation.”

Prof Samantha Thomas, a gambling marketing expert at Deakin University in Australia, said:

“All the evidence from areas like alcohol and tobacco tells us that industry educational ads achieve nothing, and can contribute to promoting and normalising the brands.”

Paddy Power said it had removed all TV advertising and product-specific sponsorship, as well as enhancing responsible gambling controls. It is understood to have maintained its Comedy Central ad because its Paddy Power Games is a brand rather than a product. It has reversed the decision since being contacted by the Guardian. (…)

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