UK Gambling Industry in the News — Weekly Round-up for December 14, 2018

New Poll Shows UK Public Approves Of ‘Whistle To Whistle’ Advertising Ban (Update)

81 percent of respondents to Harris Interactive poll agree a ban on sports betting adverts during games would be good

The news earlier this week that the UK gambling industry is discussing a voluntary “whistle-to’whistle” ban on sports betting adverts during matches has triggered a poll conducted by Harris Interactive which reports:

  • 81 percent of respondents in a sample of 963 adults think such a ban would be a good idea;
  • However among online sports betting punters the approval rate sinks to 66 percent;
  • 35 percent were aware of the voluntary ban discussions, with this metric growing to 51 percent among online sports punters;
  • Among online sports gamblers, 23 percent of respondents said that such a ban would result in less bets on live sports matches, and 18 percent opined that a ban would be enough for them to consider no longer placing wagers on live competitions;
  • The HI researchers noted that there appears to be an even divide between respondents agreeing and those disagreeing that a voluntary ban will ‘help reduce the incidence of problem gambling.’ The public appear to feel that a voluntary ban could reduce the danger of problem gambling, but not in its elimination;
  • The same perception is apparent in responses to the proposition that a ban could stop people getting into debt;
  • Respondents felt that the gambling industry needs to do more to demonstrate to the public that they care about the lives of their customers;
  • 1 out of every three respondents felt that a voluntary ban would ‘improve their perception of gambling companies’. 2 in 3 say ‘gambling companies have only done this due to pressure from the government’;
  • 2 out of every 3 respondents opined that problem gambling is getting worse, and that government should therefore do more to regulate and control the industry;
  • Over 50 percent of respondents felt that a voluntary “whistle-to-whistle” ban is not enough, and that bans should be extended to embrace gambling shirt sponsorships and gambling advertising around stadia. Slightly less felt that sponsorship bans should apply to Premier League football matches;

UK Becomes 31st Signatory Of Macolin Convention

Supports Red Card Sports Integrity Project

The United Kingdom has become the thirty-first Macolin Convention signatory following the signing of the Convention of the Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions (CETS No. 215) by Mims Davies, UK Minister for Sport and Civil Society in the presence of Gabriella Battaini Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General.

The UK will continue its efforts to conform to the Macolin Convention and develop its participation and support of Council of Europe activities including the “Keep Crime out of Sport” project (KCOOS +).

The Macolin Convention provides for the creation of national platforms and their cooperation in as many countries as possible. It is a multilateral treaty designed to prevent and detect match fixing in sport.

Football Gambling A Major Source Of Income For Brit Bookies

Betting firms earned more than GBP 1 billion from online football gambling last year, according to Gambling Commission numbers

Preceding last week’s news break that gambling companies are considering a reduction in television advertising during live matches (see previous InfoPowa reports) the Gambling Commission released statistics showing that British online bookmaking firms earned more than GBP 1 billion last year from online football betting alone.

The Gross Gambling Yield for remote football bets in 2017/18 soared 57 percent y-o-y to GBP 1,037,730,000 according to industry statistics published by the Commission, more than six times higher than the same period back in 2014.

However, football is not the only sport where online gambling companies are focused. Betting GGY for horse racing last year reached GBP 610 million last year; tennis delivered GGY of GBP 145 million; dog races GBP 54 million and cricket GBP 32 million. All contributed to overall GGY of GBP 2.3 billion earned in the online market last year.

The importance of football to the betting companies was underlined earlier this year by a study carried out by Reach Data, which revealed that 60 percent of football clubs in the top leagues of English football were engaged in shirt sponsorship deals with online betting companies.

That prompted GambleAware CEO Mark Etches to warn: “The nature and extent of gambling-related advertising exposes children to adult activity and we are concerned that this may lead to an increase in gambling-related harms in the future.

“We encourage all those involved in professional sport to balance the promotion of gambling by ensuring fans better understand the nature of gambling, the risks associated, and where to go for help if needed, for example at BeGambleAware.org.”

Television Exec Predicts That ‘Whistle To Whistle’ Sports Advertising Ban On TV Will Have Little Impact (Update)

Sky UK and Ireland chief notes that greater amounts are spent on online and social network advertising and promotions

The chief executive of the Sky UK and Ireland television network, Stephen van Rooyen, appears unimpressed by plans for gambling companies to reduce television advertising on a “whistle to whistle” basis during live sports events, judging by a personal letter he has penned which has received wide media coverage in the UK.

The television executive believes a television reduction in advertising alone will have little impact in reducing the dangers that gambling poses, and he points to verified and relevant facts that show the “inconvenient truth” that the reality of betting advertising expenditure is that money spent on gambling marketing online is five times that of TV, and the amount of cash spent promoting gambling on social media has more than tripled over the past three years.

“If the Remote Gaming Association and gambling companies are serious about protecting vulnerable gamblers, then they should start by looking at where they spend the most money, what has the least level of regulation and where there is most evidence of harm: the online world,” Van Rooyen wrote in a letter to The Times newspaper.

He suggests that that the Association should seek to close the gap in standards that exists between the highly regulated TV sector and current unregulated online marketing practices undertaken by gambling sector incumbents.

Sky announced earlier this year (see previous InfoPowa reports) that it will significantly reduce its advertising output of betting/gambling related adverts starting next year. This includes a protocol whereby only one betting/gambling advert will be broadcast per commercial break.

Sky UK is further developing new ‘ad-block’ capabilities through its AdSmart technology, and by 2020 will empower its audiences to block gambling-content on Sky and Virgin Media digital platforms.

“The irony is that TV advertising is already highly regulated, with rules around exposing inappropriate advertising to minors and limiting when and how often gambling ads can be seen,” van Rooyen opined. “This is not the case online.

“If the RGA plan is implemented, then spend would simply shift even further online, with smartphones, tablets and computers targeted with even greater precision. This doesn’t feel like a good outcome for anyone except gambling firms and online tech platforms.”

Advertising Watchdog Takes Issue With Sky TV Chief Over Online Regulations (Update)

Van Rooyen’s claim that online advertising is more loosely regulated challenged by Advertising Standards Authority in the UK

It did not take long for the Advertising Standards Authority to react to Sky TV chief executive Stephen Van Rooyen’s op-ed claim Monday that online advertising is less tightly regulated than that applied to television…the Authority challenged his view and suggested that online advertising, and its record for enforcing the regulations, was every bit as stringent.

Van Rooyen’s op-ed letter to The Times was prompted by news that gambling firms plan to voluntarily reduce the amount of television advertising they buy, which was widely reported.

Van Rooyen suggested that reducing television spend in this manner would have little impact on responsible gambling, contending that gambling companies will simply re-target advertising to the “largely unregulated” online environment, where he alleged that regulations were looser.

“TV advertising is already highly regulated, with rules around exposing inappropriate advertising to minors and limiting when and how often gambling ads can be seen,” Van Rooyen wrote. “This is not the case online.

“If the RGA plan is implemented, then spend would simply shift even further online, with smartphones, tablets and computers targeted with even greater precision.”

A spokesman for the ASA pointed to the very active enforcement program carried out on an ongoing basis by the ASA, and noted also that CAP and BCAP codes governing both channels had been tightened.

The spokesman observed that the regulation of online advertising is as strict as that applied to television and radio and gave examples of how advertisers are guided in avoiding advertising that might impact minors or problem gamblers, and the tough penalties that await those who fail to comply with these regulations.

Brace Yourselves For More Anti-Gambling Activity In The UK

Anti-FOBT and over-advertising campaigns prompt closer interest

With the public more closely focused on gambling following high profile anti-FOBT and over-advertising campaigns in political, media and activist circles, online gambling companies should brace themselves for more of the same in the year ahead as the UK parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee begins to enquire into links between video gaming and gambling, and “immersive and addictive impact technologies”.

The inquiry will study everything from the growth of eSports and the use of loot boxes and skins in video games to advanced developments in virtual and augmented reality; the impact on the lives of the public of growing computer, digitisation and gamification products and promotions, and whether current regulations are strong enough to protect the rights of consumers.

The parliamentary committee has issued invitations to interested parties to make submissions before January 14 next year.

In a statement this week Damian Collins, chair of the committee, said: “During our recent inquiries, the committee has heard repeated concerns about the impact to society of the increasing amounts of time that people spend immersed in online worlds, and the potentially addictive nature of social media and gaming”.

“We want to explore these concerns during this inquiry and consider what the right response should be in setting public policy for the future. The committee will also consider how individuals’ online data is used by immersive technologies and what security is offered.

“We’re seeing industries emerge that offer enormous potential for growth such as eSports and gaming where the UK is rightly regarded as a world leader in production. We’ll be looking at what action is needed to ensure we remain a key player. Technology such as virtual reality and augmented reality is already an important asset to the film industry, simulated training, and gaming. We want to understand more about its potential and the future impact it could have on society.”

Legal Firm Claims Gbp 1.5 Million From Gambling Companies

William Hill Plc and Paddy Power Betfair cited in filing by London legal firm

According to a report in the Guardian newspaper Tuesday the London legal firm Mackrell Turner Garrett has filed suit seeking GBP 1.5 million in victim compensation settlements against FTSE-listed betting firms’ – William Hill Plc and Paddy Power Betfair Plc (PPB).

The victim compensation claims relate to addicted gamblers wagering with stolen money at William Hill betting shops and PPB’s Betfair betting exchange, the newspaper reports. The filings claim that the betting groups failed in their obligation to prevent money laundering and intervene with visible problem gambling behaviours.

In the William Hill claim, the undisclosed problem gambler is reported to have wagered GBP 650,000 in stolen money at two betting shops, over six months losing GBP 150,000. Makrell seeks GBP 600,000 from William Hill, pointing to alleged transactions, where the gambler on two occasions wagered GBP 50,000 in one day without the betting shops fulfilling ‘source of funds’ requirements.

The filing notes that the UK Gambling Commission is currently investigating the case.

The case against Paddy Power Betfair was also the subject of a Gambling Commission enquiry and relates to activity at the group’s betting exchange subsidiary last October. The Commission concluded that Betfair had failed to intervene when a gambling addict wagered with GBP 900,000 stolen cash from a Birmingham charity, failing on standards of social responsibility.

Mackrell states that it had initially pursued a voluntary settlement with PPB, offering management an agreement deadline which has now passed.

“I am disappointed that the Gambling Commission and Paddy Power Betfair have both failed to engage with my clients, despite offering comments to the media about their commitment to tackling the problem,” James Atton partner at Mackrell told The Guardian.

Advertising Standards Authority Rejects 24 Complaints Regarding Lottery Advert

TV campaign does not promote the game as a potential solution to financial troubles, watchdog finds

A Camelot television advert which triggered 24 complaints from members of the public has been approved by the Advertising Standards Authority watchdog, which rejected the complaints after concluding that the advertisement did not promote the National Lottery as a potential solution to financial troubles.

Three versions on the Fisherman themed advert were produced for Camelot by Adam & Eve/DDB.

Gambling Commission Opens Consultation On National Responsible Gambling Strategy

Open to submissions until March next year

The UK Gambling Commission has opened a consultative window to discuss a national responsible gambling strategy, inviting all interested parties to submit recommendations and ideas before the March 2019 closing date.

The project is aimed at developing safer gambling protocols, structures, best practices and strategies, with the imperative of protecting vulnerable consumers and under-age audiences.

“We committed in our business plan to develop the new strategy and continue to be committed to driving and encouraging progress within our remit,” a statement from the Commission asserted this week.

“However, we are only one of the bodies with a role to play, and will work together with Government, public health, the charitable sector and gambling businesses in order to make real progress to reduce gambling harms.

“We want as many people and organisations as possible to have a voice in shaping the strategy and the arrangements needed to deliver it.”

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Brian Cullingworth

Brian Cullingworth

Infopowa news was a staple of Casinomeister’s news from 2000 until 2019. Brian Cullingworth was the main writer, contributor, and was one of the most knowledgeable persons I have ever known involved in the online casino industry.

We first met in January 2001 at the ICE in London where I observed him going booth to booth interviewing online casino, software, and licensing jurisdiction representatives. Brian was also heavily involved with our forum as “Jetset“, he was involved as an informal consultant to eCOGRA, the OPA, and was a player advocate who assisted countless aggrieved players with his connections to industry folks. He also published “Casino Cautions” via Infopowa news for quite a number of years. These can be found in our news archives.

His passing in February 2019 was a dark day for us. He will be forever missed.

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