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Britain’s largest gambling firms have pledged to stop all television and radio advertising to help protect potentially vulnerable customers during the coronavirus lockdown.
The commitment was announced Monday by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), whose members account for around half of all such ads in the UK.
The self-imposed ban will last at least six weeks and will only be reviewed once wider societal lockdown restrictions are changed.
The BGC said the move was designed to protect players, with many people feeling “cut off and anxious” while forced to stay at home.
The trade group called on the National Lottery and society lotteries, which account for another 30% of UK gambling advertising, to follow its lead.
Where contracts have already been agreed for TV/radio ads, they will be replaced by safer gambling messages, donated to charities, or removed from broadcast.
“We are determined to do everything we can to protect customers potentially at risk during this lockdown period and beyond — and we are determined to drive the high standards that the public expect from us,” said BGC chief executive Michael Dugher.
The announcement should help shield the industry from further criticism about its handling of potentially at-risk gamblers. Last week, the UK government wrote to the largest UK operators and urged them to do more to reduce the “heightened risk” for gamblers during lockdown.
It could be suggested, however, that Monday’s announcement is more of a shrewd PR move than a major shift in philosophy. The industry will still have access to key marketing channels like paid search, social media, and direct marketing via SMS and email.
The BGC acknowledged this but said it will be focused on safer gambling messaging.
It has also been argued that TV and radio marketing is not economically attractive for operators in the current climate anyway. Bookmakers, for example, are unlikely to be acquiring many new customers in the absence of most sports.
No advertising restrictions have yet been floated in markets like New Jersey or Pennsylvania, even though many of the key operators are the same.