Why UK TV Gambling Ad Ban May Not Hit Operators That Severely

Data by the UK Gambling Commission shows that the country’s gambling industry has increased more than 61.7% from 2009 when a total of £8.4 billion was generated in gross gambling yield to 2016 when the amount of £13.6 billion was reported.

Answering the question what has encouraged such a massive growth would be a difficult task as there is a plethora of factors to have contributed to the industry’s evolution into its current state. However, advertising has certainly been one such factor.

Published last summer, a Guardian-commissioned study by global measurement firm Nielsen dwelt specifically and in detail on the deployment of television as a major gambling advertising medium. Nielsen found that UK-facing gaming and betting operators spent £456 million on TV advertising between 2012 and 2015. In 2015 only, those same operators invested £118.5 million in the creation and broadcasting of TV ads to increase brand awareness among customers. In comparison, the amount of £81.2 million was spent on TV advertising in 2012. An almost twofold increase speaks volumes about how important television has become for operators’ marketing efforts.

However, UK-facing gambling companies may soon have to start looking for a new favorite advertising medium. Following the publication of the Nielsen report, word has leaked out that a traditional triennial review of the country’s gambling industry may be concluded with a daytime TV gambling advertising ban.

Here it is important to note that operators and broadcasters are required to follow certain rules, those being included in a set of codes, when it comes to the promotion of gambling products on television. In the general case, gambling ads cannot be broadcast before the 9 pm watershed. However, there are certain exclusions to the general rule. For instance, sports betting ads can be shown during broadcasts of different sports events, no matter when in the day said events are taking place.

And it is exactly such daily showings of ads that are expected to be targeted by the UK government. The introduction of a daytime TV ad ban has influential supporters, including key country officials, but the potential implementation of such a measure has been vocally opposed by broadcasters and gambling operators. Results from the MPs’ review of the gambling industry are to be released this spring, so it will likely not be long before it becomes clear how exactly those will be targeted. And while waiting for the study’s findings, maybe it is a good idea to look at the effects of a possible daytime TV gambling ban.

What Has Urged MPs to Consider a Daytime TV Gambling Ad Ban?

The promotion of responsible gambling has been a duty taken very seriously by the UK Gambling Commission, the government, dedicated non-governmental organizations, and other concerned parties. Problem gambling rates have been monitored over the years so as for the relevant bodies to be able to take adequate measures against their increase.

Although there is no solid evidence that there is a direct link between increased TV gambling advertising activity and a rise in problem gambling cases, the promotion of gambling products on television may after all be contributing to triggering problem gambling behavior with vulnerable people, children included.

A 2007 British Gambling Prevalence Survey (BGPS) showed that 0.6% of all interviewees defined themselves as problem gamblers. TV gambling ads were not that widespread back then. A 2010 report showed that problem gambling cases increased to 0.9%. Here it is important to note that gambling brands’ exposure on television had increased significantly at the time

According to the most recent BGPS, one made public in 2012, problem gambling prevalence rate stood at 0.5%. However, the number of gambling ads broadcast on TV has increased significantly over the years – from 152,000 in 2006 to 1.39 million in 2012, a 2013 Ofcom report showed.

As mentioned above, influential parties have been calling for gambling ads to be curbed so as for their exposure to children and vulnerable people to be limited. It has been suggested that TV spots with explicitly gambling-related content trivialize this type of products and undervalue the risks of overexposure to gambling.

Possible Negative Effects from a Daytime TV Gambling Ads Ban

Gambling operators spoke against the potential ban immediately after first reports for its introduction appeared in media last fall. Members of the country’s Remote Gambling Association pointed to a recent gambling advertising review conducted by the UK Department of Culture, Media, and Sport that concluded that there was no need of broadcasting restrictions.

And although operators may lose a favorite advertising medium, they will certainly not be the ones to lose the most from a possible ban.

Shortly before being appointed as permanent CEO of William Hill, Philip Bowcock commented on the possible ads crackdown by saying that he understood public concerns and that advertising-related measures may not be such a bad thing.

William Hill is among the largest UK operators. The company and its likes have great exposure across high streets and can easily reach existing and potential customers through that exposure. The case is slightly different with operators with no physical presence around the country. Gambling companies of this kind certainly need more channels to promote their offerings on.

However, with the increasing penetration of smartphones and other portable devices, operators may not find it that difficult to find a new favorite advertising medium. A recent report by market research firm eMarketer showed that digital advertising spend in UK will represent almost 58% of overall advertising media spend in 2017 and is expected to reach £10.9 billion.

Mobile media ad spend will account for 36.6% of the total, amounting to £6.89 billion. What is more, eMarketer predicted that mobile ad spending will double by 2021 to £12.19 billion. The mobile channel has been among gambling’s most profitable ones over the past several years, so it will not be a big surprise if operators channel their TV ad investment into mobile advertising, no matter whether a daytime TV ban will be imposed or not.

It can thus be said that TV broadcasters will probably be the ones to lose the biggest from an advertising crackdown. Channels, particularly sports ones, need additional investment to recoup funds spent on expensive sports broadcasting rights and gambling ads money have long been seen as a big boost to their budgets.

Following Paddy Power and Betfair’s merger early last year, the combined entity announced a £300-million marketing budget with an increased focus on TV advertising. The gambling operator is among the largest Sky Sports advertisers, as recently pointed out by its CEO Breon Corcoran.

The potential loss of such a big boost has unleashed a powerful wave of broadcasters discontent. And it is this wave of discontent that may eventually prevent any too draconian ad-related measures from being implemented.

Results from the government’s review are expected to be revealed to the public anytime now.

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