Methods in tackling underage exposure to betting effective

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has revealed the consequences of sports betting television advertisements on children may not be as impactful as previously feared.

The report underlines in recent years, amid intense media coverage and lobbying regarding the exposure of children to adverts, the amount of marketing related to gambling that was seen by minors significantly declined.

One of the key factors in the significant decrease, was the effectiveness of scheduling regulations, with the revelation that children’s exposure to gambling ads – in contrast to adults’ – tumbled year-on-year from 39 per cent in 2008 to 20 per cent in 2017, which means that they see, on average one TV ad for gambling for every five seen by adults (in 2017).

Furthermore, this reduction was felt even deeper when it comes to sports betting ads, as the UK’s marketing regulatory body detailed that, from 2011 onwards, the majority of adverts for gambling viewed by children were for bingo, lottery and scratchcards. Meanwhile, the exposure to sports-betting ads went from an average of one per week in 2011 to 0.4 ads per week in 2017.

Seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the debate about the effectiveness and the proportionality of the rules that currently restrict scheduling and content, the ASA draws upon data from 2017, a year in which children viewed an average of 161.2 television ads per week.

Commenting on the research, ASA Chief Executive, Guy Parker said: “Protecting children has always been at the heart of our regulation. These findings show that in recent years, children’s exposure to TV ads for alcohol, gambling and food and soft drink products high in fat, salt or sugar is declining.

“We’re not complacent though and we’ll continue to actively monitor and report on this important area of work. Our next focus will be to examine whether the rules are working in the same way online and we’ll report on that later in 2019.”

The research appears to reject media criticism over the way betting is advertised during live sports broadcasts, criticism that is targeted towards the sports betting sector and has led to the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) publishing new provisions for the industry’s ‘Code for Socially Responsible Advertising’ something that saw the implementation of a so-called whistle-to-whistle ban on betting adverts during pre-watershed sport broadcasts.

Speaking at the time, John Hagan, Chair of IGRG, emphasised: “Today the gambling industry is responding positively to public concerns about the amount of gambling advertising on television before the watershed.

“We are announcing a ‘whistle to whistle’ ban on gambling advertising during all televised live sport before the watershed, with the exception of horseracing and greyhound racing. We are also announcing a ban on any gambling advertising during re-runs of sporting events and highlight shows before the watershed.

“We believe that these new voluntary TV measures, which have been approved by the trade associations representing every sector of the gambling industry, will drastically reduce the amount of gambling advertising on television and they complement the strict controls that already govern gambling companies around advertising on digital platforms.”

He concluded: “We believe that this is itself a watershed moment as we strive to provide the ever, safer gambling environment which gambling consumers and the wider public expect, and which is so important to the future success and sustainability of our industry.”

The new code has subdued the lobbying of the UK Labour party, which had previously pushed for the eradication of sports betting sponsorships within English football. Given betting sponsorships remain synonymous with English football, it’s seemingly inevitable that the temporary silence from industry critics, is just that, temporary.

The ASA report highlights the importance of bringing discussions about responsible advertising to a rational and consistent level. This is something that will be discussed at the upcoming Betting on Football Conference.

The event brings together key stakeholders from the industry to address key questions in a bid to regain the public trust.

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