UK gambling firms opt to halt TV and radio advertising

Gambling operators in the UK have voluntarily agreed to stop advertising on radio and television for the duration of the Covid-19 lockdown. 

The Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) announced on Monday that all of its members will halt these forms of brand promotion until at least June 5th. 

Existing ad slots will instead either be replaced with messages for safer gambling or donated to charities. Alternatively, if contracts allow for it, they can be removed.

Online gambling forms still allowed, but will be reduced 

These changes will be implemented as soon as possible, but no later than May 7th. The restrictions will only be assessed once lockdown measures in the UK have eased up. 

Operators will still be allowed to advertise via email, SMS and social media. However, these forms of marketing have – according to the BGC – decreased since the pandemic reached UK shores anyway. 

Responding to government questions

Last week, the country’s government sent a letter to the BGC. In this, they wanted to know how operators are decreasing the risks of problem gambling. 

Operators’ spend on traditional marketing was already going down this year. 6% less was spent on TV, radio and print in January 2020 – compared to the same month in 2019. That rose to 12% in March. 

BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said that contrary to popular belief and expectations, online gambling revenue for many operators hasn’t risen since Covid-19 struck the UK. 

In the council’s press release, he said the following. 

“We have been working closely with our member companies since this crisis began to monitor the impact of betting and gaming. There hasn’t been an explosion in people betting online as some had predicted – in fact, the opposite is true with total revenue down by up to 60 per cent. 

“Overall gambling levels have also fallen significantly as a result of betting shops and casinos closing and the suspension of live sport. And whilst advertising levels on sports and casino are also down, again contrary to some assertions, we recognise that removing product advertising will act as a further safeguard during covid-19.  

“This major announcement by our members will result in the removal of half of all product advertising on TV and radio. I hope now that other major gambling operators like the National Lottery follow our lead.”

Adding to previous measures taken 

At the end of March, the BGC released a 10-point action plan to tackle problem gambling during the outbreak. 

Affiliates were warned about their conduct as part of this. Meanwhile, the industry is also obliged to “ensure appropriate and responsible advertising, including monitoring volume”. 

Affiliates were also banned from advertising this month’s Virtual Grand National. The event raised £2.5 million for the NHS.

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