UK MPs attack gambling firms over ads

The UK Parliament has delayed the racing levy reform. (Credits: euractiv.com)
The UK Parliament has delayed the racing levy reform. (Credits: euractiv.com)

A group of UK MPs has accused gambling firms of disguising ads as social messages.

UK.- Members of Parliament on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm have accused gambling firms’ of breaching the spirit of a pledge to remove television and radio ads during lockdown.

They said some social messages broadcast to replace ads were “thinly veiled” commercials and have urged the government to intervene.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) announced last month that its members would remove television and radio advertising by May 7 at the latest.

The pledge was to last for the remainder of the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown.

In the case of advertising slots that had already been bought, members agreed to replace the planned adverts with safe gambling messages.

But members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Harm claim that such social messages are “thinly veiled” ads.

The group told The Guardian newspaper: “These are clearly just forms of advertising under the thinly veiled guise of a social responsibility message.”

It said recent ads broadcast over the weekend were “a demonstration of the failure of self-regulation by the industry”, and called on the government to intervene.

The 50 members of the group have written again to the UK’s Minister for Culture Nigel Huddleston to urge the government to take action. 

The group also criticised companies for publishing the adverts under the names of casino divisions rather than under the parent company names.

Charles Ritchie of campaign group Gambling with Lives, said: “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.”

The BGC has argued that if critics are genuinely concerned they should call on non-BGC members such as the National Lottery to follow its lead.

Reporting the story, The Guardian newspaper claimed it has seen analysis suggesting that several major UK gambling firms had increased online advertising spend on Google since lockdown began.

The newspaper reported that Paddy Power has decided to cancel one of the criticised spots after being contacted by the newspaper. 

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