Competition among online casinos can be intense, compelling operators to be more aggressive and creative with their advertising. In the past, most advertising took place online, but online casinos have taken advantage of TV ads to reach a wider audience in recent years. The UK gambling sector uses TV advertising to drive sales in one of the most heavily regulated markets globally.
In the United Kingdom, the Gambling Commission (UKGC) is responsible for providing gambling licenses to online casino operators, and when necessary, it can impose certain limitations to keep players safe. All online casinos must obtain a license from UKGC to lawfully operate and provide their services to local casino players.
Regulation of TV Gambling Ads
Gambling advertising wasn’t allowed on radio or TV until the adoption of The Gambling Act of 2005. The Act allowed the online gambling industry to advertise its products on TV and online in the UK.
Since then, no significant changes in UK gambling regulations were made, but 2019 saw a tangible move towards over-regulation of the industry. The UKGC amended its advertising practices to ban online casino operators from running gambling ads on websites where the casino’s website traffic comes from children.
Over-regulation of the gambling industry went into overdrive in 2020 when the government asked gambling firms to put measures to help mitigate the gambling problem. The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), the industry association for gaming and betting representing online gaming businesses, voluntarily agreed to remove all radio and TV ads for products and games during the Covid-19 lockdown in May.
BGC members, including casinos found on online-casinos.com, complied and agreed to replace ad spots they’d already booked with safer gambling messages. Meanwhile, most operators were hoping to return to running TV campaigns once the lockdown lifted to propel their growth for the rest of the year.
But recently, more than 50 members of parliament through the UK Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) proposed that the government should ban all forms of gambling advertising both on television and online. If passed, this regulation will be a serious blow to the online casino industry.
The APPG proposes a major overhaul of the Gambling Act to sets out more than 30 recommendations for regulatory change. It seeks to curb and ultimately eliminate gambling adverts from TV. Their major argument for this is that online casinos are engaging in dangerous and aggressive advertising, and these new regulations will help protect the public.
The APPG report is a culmination of a year-long investigation of Great Britain’s online gaming industry. The investigation gated evidence from the Gambling Commission, casino operators, lawmakers, and people suffering from or have suffered from gambling addiction. The report claims that online casino’s advertising is designed to encourage people to gamble, causing harm to be people, and calls for a total prohibition of all advertisements.
While the advertisement ban may seem like an over-reach by the APPG, they have other recommendations that could further hurt the industry. Their £2 stake limit on online slot machines is a major concern for online casinos as it could drastically diminish profits. It also calls for the end to VIP schemes and other inducements to bet and seeks more control over gambling game design.
The online gaming industry is huge in the UK. The fact that so many MPs are ready to impose these strict regulations on the online casino industry despite it bringing in nearly 11 billion in revenue and pays over £3 billion in tax shows the severity of the situation. The members of parliament behind the total ban on gambling advertising are highly influential, and their other initiates have been successful.
While the APPG has a lot of support from a section of the population, the UK Advertising Association (AA) rejected the advertising ban saying the ban isn’t necessary and such action will have huge implications on sports. The AA argues for the existing self-regulatory system as it achieves a good balance of protecting the consumer while allowing freedom of choice.
The BGC called the move by APPG prohibitionistic, saying these measures could drive people away from gambling safely with licensed online casino operators. It reiterated its commitment to driving safer gambling standards.
The Future of Online Casino Ads Looks Grim
The BGC has been proactive in gambling advertisement regulation and even passed a self-imposed ban in 2019 dubbed the “Whistle to Whistle” ban aimed at reducing gambling ads exposure for children. The self-imposed ban states that no gambling adverts will be shown 5 minutes before a live sport starts until five minutes after. The ban slashed the amount of TV gambling seen by children.
The recent 10-pledge action plan agreed to by the BGC member companies to increase safer gambling messages and ensure responsible advertising may help demonstrate the gambling industry’s commitment to observing higher advertising standards.
What’s clear is that the APPG will not give up this fight, and chances are high that at least most if not all of the report’s recommendations will be adopted, and online casinos may never get a spot on British television.