Friday, June 21, 2024

Cut gambling adverts at UK sports games, MPs urge

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MPs have urged the UK government to cut the amount of gambling advertisements at football games and other sports events, to protect audiences amid growing concerns over the prevalence of betting addiction.

The committee of culture media and sport on Thursday called on ministers to take a more “precautionary approach” in its regulation of the sector, citing a study by the University of Bristol that showed nearly 7,000 gambling ads appeared in just six matches of this Premier League season. 

“More should be done to shield both children and people who have experienced problem gambling from what often seems like a bombardment of advertising branding at football and other sporting events”, said committee chair Caroline Dinenage. 

The report comes alongside demands from policymakers and campaigners for stricter regulation of “harmful” messaging, including a ban on gambling adverts in sports venues as well as on public transport

“Increasing so-called ‘safer gambling’ messaging will not help until we get proper evidence-based public health messages that have not been influenced by the gambling industry”, said Charles Ritchie, founder of the Gambling with Lives charity that supports families bereaved by gambling-related suicide.

In a white paper published earlier this year, the government set out plans to introduce a stake limit on bets as well as a statutory levy on some gambling companies to fund public health initiatives.

The policy document “outlines a balanced and proportionate package of measures, delivering greater protections for those at risk of experiencing harm, while having minimal impact on the freedoms of the large majority of punters”, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said on Thursday.

The proposals, however, do not directly limit the sports industry from advertising gambling, with the department claiming that “sports governing bodies are best placed to decide” how to protect their fans.

Gambling groups pay the Premier League around £65mn a year, according to government figures.

In April, Premier League clubs said they would begin to phase out gambling logos from the front of players’ shirts by the end of the 2025-26 season.

However, this type of on-clothing promotion makes up only 7 per cent of the total gambling branding visible during matches, according to the Bristol university study cited in the CMS committee report. 

The MPs proposed that the new gambling sponsorship code of conduct, which the government plans to develop with sports bodies, include clear measures to promote safer messaging. 

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