Sky to Limit Gambling Ads to One per Commercial Break from New Premier League Season

Sky is looking to crack down on gambling ads amid tumultuous times for UK’s gambling industry

Pay-TV giant Sky announced plans to significantly limit the number of gambling ads that are shown across its programing amid rising concern over the overexposure of vulnerable people to gambling-related advertising content.

Sky will cut the number of gambling adverts to just one per commercial break on each of the channels for which it sells advertising slots, including Sky Sports. The company will look to implement the changes ahead of the start of the new Premier League season in August 2019.

At present, gambling ads are banned from being shown before a 9 pm watershed in the United Kingdom. However, the ban does not apply to live broadcasts of sports events. Up to four gambling spots can be seen during each commercial break and slots during live sports on Sky Sports are usually occupied by ads promoting the widely popular in-play betting.

Sky’s new restrictions will cover ads of all types of gambling products, including sports betting, online casino, poker, and bingo. They will apply to all times of the day, including in the evenings and the middle of the night.

The pay-TV giant is making voluntary steps toward restricting gambling adverts amid calls from responsible gambling organizations and MPs for a wider regulatory crackdown on the way gambling products are advertised.

As part of its strategy to reduce gambling advertising content across its channels, Sky also announced that it is developing an AdSmart technology that will allow people to block gambling ads across Sky and Virgin Media TV platforms altogether. The technology will be rolled out in June 2020 across more than 140 channels.

Sky said that the move is particularly aimed at self-excluded gamblers and people with gambling problems who want to reduce their exposure to gambling-related content.

Commenting on the planned changes, Sky UK and Ireland CEO, Stephen van Rooyen, said:

“Our customers are worried about gambling ads on TV – and we understand their concerns. That’s why we’ve committed to limiting the amount of gambling ads on Sky and better protecting those vulnerable to problem gambling.”

The UK gambling industry has been able to advertise its products since 2007 when the Labour government lifted strict rules against gambling advertising. Research firm Nielsen has found that operators spent £1.4 billion on advertising from 2012 to 2017. Nearly a quarter of that amount was spent to advertise sports betting products.

Industry under Fire

Sky’s planned limitations and new ad-blocking technology come as the UK gambling industry is facing a backlash for promoting its services too aggressively and doing little to prevent gambling addiction and help those stricken by it.

And its seems that the industry itself is split on the gambling advertising issue. Richard Flint, CEO of Sky Betting and Gaming, a gambling company which Sky previously owned a majority stake in, has said recently that while it is companies’ obligation to take measures to combat problem gambling, wider advertising restrictions would not help in that fight.

On the other hand, Kenny Alexander, CEO of GVC Holdings, has come out in support of a blanket ban on gambling adverts showed on TV. The potential implementation of a pre-watershed ban on gambling ads has been discussed by the government for several years, but it seems that such a move could now gain more traction amid a wider crackdown on the provision of gambling services in the UK.

The UK retail betting industry is gearing up for a massive clampdown on the highly controversial fixed-odds betting terminals that will see the maximum stake customers can place on the machines be reduced from £100 to just £2. However, it became known last month that despite pressure from FOBT critics, the new stake will be implemented in October 2019. The delayed implementation of the changes has prompted the departure of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, who has been among the most active lobbyists for a cut of the maximum FOBT stake.

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