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UK sport set for TV betting ad ban

UK gambling operators have today (Thursday) agreed to introduce a voluntary ban on advertising during pre-watershed live sport broadcasts, the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) has announced.

Today’s confirmation follows initial reports of such a move last week. The IDRG, a collective body for the five key gambling trade associations in the UK to work together on collective issues around social responsibility, has made the announcement as part of major changes to its Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising.

These changes have been brought forward as part of the code’s annual review process. The changes include a ‘whistle to whistle’ ban on all television betting adverts during pre-watershed (9pm GMT) live sport, starting five minutes before the event begins, and ending five minutes after it finishes.

Additional measures include an end to betting adverts around highlight shows and re-runs, and an end to pre-watershed bookmaker sponsorship of sports programmes. These changes, which will effectively stop betting adverts from being shown in commercial breaks during televised live sport, are expected to be introduced in the summer of 2019 and exclude horse and greyhound racing programmes.

The measures are complementary to the additional restrictions that have been made by some broadcasters, which include limiting betting adverts during ‘build up’ shows prior to live sport to one advert per break.

John Hagan, chair of IGRG, said: “Today the gambling industry is responding positively to public concerns about the amount of gambling advertising on television before the watershed.

“We believe that these new voluntary TV measures, which have been approved by the trade associations representing every sector of the gambling industry, will drastically reduce the amount of gambling advertising on television and they complement the strict controls that already govern gambling companies around advertising on digital platforms.

“We believe that this is itself a watershed moment as we strive to provide the ever, safer gambling environment which gambling consumers and the wider public expect, and which is so important to the future success and sustainability of our industry.”

The code was first introduced in 2007 and covers a range of areas which are designed to augment the advertising regulatory regime which is overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority. The intention is to re-publish the code in January with the changes announced today coming into force six months later.

The code already includes provisions which prevent any online casino advertising before the watershed; and stop gambling sponsorships appearing on any children’s merchandise, including on replica football shirts.

Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said: “At our annual Raising Standards Conference last month I highlighted the need for the industry to act together in response to public concerns about gambling advertising.

“Today’s announcement is a significant step forward in demonstrating that this is an industry that is starting to listen to its customers and the wider public. Importantly, it also demonstrates the value of collaborating across companies and across sectors to make gambling fairer and safer. I hope that this can be used as a model for future industry action to reduce and prevent harm.”