Dugher blasts “mendacious” messages from gambling prohibitionists

Michael Dugher criticised the anti-gambling lobby for attempting to generate “hysteria”
Michael Dugher criticised the anti-gambling lobby for attempting to generate “hysteria”

The CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council has reaffirmed operators’ commitment to the protection of minors as the UK begins to review gambling legislation.

UK.- The CEO of the industry body the Betting and Gaming Council has hit back against gambling prohibitionists and reaffirmed operators’ commitment to protecting minors.

In an opinion piece for PoliticsHome, Michael Dugher criticised the anti-gambling lobby for attempting to generate “hysteria” around problem gambling as the UK begins its review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

He wrote: “Ministers made it clear that the percentage of problem gamblers in Britain stands at approximately 0.5 per cent of the adult population – comparatively low by many international standards – and that this rate has remained broadly steady around or below one per cent for the past 20 years.

“Unfortunately, in the same way that it is true that regulated betting employs 100,000 people and pays around £3bn in tax, none of this evidence suits the anti-gambling lobby.

“The hysteria they seek to generate is predicated on their assertion that there has been an ‘explosion’ of problem gambling.”

He attacked anti-gambling campaigners for using misleading images and said that licensed operators were committed to protecting minors.

He said: “Most recently, prohibitionists sadly chose to spread images on social media of children wearing football kits with imitation betting firm logos on them answering the door to their favourite players.

“The kids are then able to have a bet on a football game. This may be emotive, but it’s also mendacious and irresponsible.”

Gambling advertising in sport

Regarding the question of gambling advertising in sport, which is expected to come under the microscope during the UK review, Dugher said: “The Government’s Review will undoubtedly focus on betting advertising in sport.

“Betting has been part of sports like horse racing and football for time immemorial – but it’s worth pointing out that our Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising includes a requirement that no betting operators’ logos can appear on children’s merchandise including replica football kits.

“Far from trying to entice children to gamble, regulated members of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) have a zero tolerance approach to betting by under-18s.”

Dugher added that the BGC has long campaigned for the age limit for National Lottery products to be raised to 18, a measure that is set to finally be introduced this year. 

He also warned that age restrictions are simply ignored by unlicensed operators that do not carry out the same strict ID and age verification checks as the regulated sector.

Online gambling advertising

Dugher also noted that the BGC’s Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising had been updated to prevent under-18s from seeing betting adverts online, ensuring that all sponsored social media adverts are targeted at over-25s, unless the website can prove that their ads can be accurately targeted at those aged over 18.

The code also states that gambling adverts on search engines must show they are for over 18s. The BGC has also helped fund the Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme via GamCare and YGAM.

He added: “We welcome the fact that Google has recently started allowing people to opt out of most gambling advertising on its platform.

“These changes are clearly making a difference as the Advertising Standards Authority recently announced that, following its latest advertisement review, the number of betting ads appearing on inappropriate sites was down by 93 per cent.

“Strict advertising rules also rightly prevent children being targeted by betting adverts.

“But again, these do not apply to the illegal, online black market, another reason why we have warned that the Gambling Review must not inadvertently drive customers into the arms of these unscrupulous operators.”

Dugher concluded: “We have already done a lot and we are ready to go even further to prevent underage gambling.

“As we look ahead to 2021, and as the Gambling Review gathers pace, we will continue this critical work.”

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gambling regulation gaming regulation sports betting