Increase in Gambling Ads Raises Concerns

A recent report by independent UK regulator Ofcom revealed that ads for online gambling have increased by 600%. This has led to concerns that children are being exposed to more gambling ads than ever. The independent regulator and competition authority created quite a stir after the report was released and reactions were mixed. The report showed that the number of gambling commercials has increased since the laws were changed in 2007. That was when the gambling act of 2005 came into force and opened the doors for ads for sports betting, online bingo, casinos and poker. There were also ads for football pools, bingo and the National Lottery.

In 2005 there were only 90,000 gambling ads aired on commercial television but during the first year the law was amended the number rose to 537,000. Between 2005 and 2012 the number of ads rose from 17.4 million to 34.2 million gambling ads. As the number of available television channels increased so did the number of gambling ads on each channel. Today gambling ads account for 4.1% of all ads aired on television. Some of the new gambling ads mirror the old serialized Gold Blend instant coffee ads that were highly successful. BetVictor and Ladbrokes are two companies running serialized ads. In 2012 online bingo operators aired 532,000 TV ads. 411,000 online casino and poker ads were aired along with 355,000 for lotteries and scratch cards and 91,000 for sports books.

The sudden increase in the number of gambling ads has MP’s engaging in the usual posturing and exposing children to gambling is the complaint du jour. The Ofcom report says that children are exposed to about 211 gambling ads. Sports Minister Helen Grant recently revealed that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is in discussions with a number or regulatory bodies to make sure that current advertising codes contained provisions to protect children from gambling advertisements. Grant and DCMS Secretary of State Maria Miller attended meetings with Ofcom, the Gambling Commission (GC) and the Advertising Standards Authority to discuss whether there was an increased risk of exposure to children.

News media quoted Grant as saying she felt that current measures were successful in preventing and limiting the exposure of children to gambling ads. Grant told the House of Commons “I can assure honorable members that the government takes the issue very seriously indeed and are already working to assess the adequacy of the current arrangements.”

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