New laws ban using celebrities and sports stars in gambling ads

The subject of gambling advertisements continues to be controversial, and, from October, footballers will no longer be able to appear in gambling advertisements.

This decision has been made by the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP). The ban will also affect celebrities and social media influencers.

News of the new rule has been greeted favourably by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) Chief executive Michael Dugher, who believes it will “drive up standards and ensure further protections in advertising”.

The decision to ban footballers from gambling advertisements, from the elite Premier League down to Harrogate Town in League Two, fits in with the policies of CAP. It aims to protect the young and vulnerable from anything that may cause harm. Those advertisements that can be linked to “youth culture” should not be aimed at under-18s.

Adverts that show gambling sponsorship of football kits and at stadiums will also be banned. And there should not be references made to gameplay and video game content that this age group would know about.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is also concerned about the potential harm of gambling. Sports betting and casino companies are licensed and regulated by the UKGC, which is not afraid to issue fines or take away those licenses should rules be broken.

Recent months have seen millions of pounds of fines issued by the UKGC to companies such as 888 and even the National Lottery licence holder Camelot. This was because of failures by the companies to protect their customers, especially those in danger of or already experiencing gambling harm.

Many gambling companies present a good example of responsible gambling. Customers should enjoy their gaming but not let it affect the way they live. Reputable sites now include among their content information about responsible gambling and links to support organisations.

It’s important that the sites act when their customers show signs of having gambling problems. The UKGC has just set out rules that licensed gambling operators must follow from September 12. They will receive these rules in June and are aimed at protecting consumers from gambling harm.

This includes monitoring the indicators that customers are at risk of gambling harm. Action must be taken as soon as possible, and they should not receive any marketing information about new promotions, for example.

That will come into place a month before the ban on footballers taking part in gambling adverts. The hope is that the ban will limit the chances of under-18s becoming gamblers. Football has a close relationship with the gambling industry. Sky Bet sponsors the English Football League and many clubs are sponsored by bookmakers.

Retired players are often used as ambassadors to promote gambling companies. This has caused upset by footballers such as Paul Merson and Peter Shilton who have spoken about their problems with gambling. Merson says that it “sickens” him when he sees former players and managers taking part in gambling advertisements.

Shahriar Coupal is the director of CAP. He hopes that this ban will “invite a new era for gambling ads.” It’s an important year in which to take action. The World Cup is in November and December. That will see gambling adverts aplenty as companies bid to get customers. The director said that there would be “no more top-flight footballers or other high-profile sportspeople promoting the latest odds”.

But others do not share his views. Lord Don Foster is the chairman of Peers for Gambling Reform. He feels that shirt sponsorship and other promotional methods will continue to cause problems in protecting the young and vulnerable.

Another problem is that the Advertising Standards Authority cannot regulate team sponsors. They have stated that children see an average of 2.2 betting/gambling ads each week. This is the lowest figure since 2010, with a ban on under-25s being used in ads. Players such as Jordon Sancho and Kylian Mbappe were featured in a now-banned ad by Football Index.

The 2005 Gambling Act is being reviewed, and a white paper is expected to be released soon. This legislation is considered by Foster as “outdated” and wants the government to ban any links between football clubs and gambling.

In response, the gambling industry believes that stricter regulation would hit their finances hard. This, in turn, would lead to thousands of jobs being lost in the industry. The coming months, though, will be an important time for the UK gambling industry.

News of this ban on footballers being in gambling ads and the UKGC rules is likely the start of stronger industry regulation.

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