I have lately become very puzzled by the Gambling Commission‘s remit to ensure gambling
- is fair and open
- protects children and vulnerable people
- is free from criminal influence
Gambling, in the United Kingdom, appears well policed, It also appears fair and open. However, I am beginning to seriously doubt that it protects children and vulnerable people.
Firstly I must point out the BBC article relating to Coral advertising on the Cartoon Network. According to the BBC, an advert for Coral, ‘…was broadcast nine times on Saturday 25 May between 06:42 BST and 08:42 on Turner Broadcasting’s Cartoon Network and Boomerang channels.’ All parties involved in this breach of advertising standards have expressed regret at the mistake that allowed this type of advertising to be broadcast on a TV channel dedicated to children. Unfortunately, conspiracy theorists may emphasise that this was not a mistake, particularly due to the product placement within the advert. the Coral advert began in a standard format but included very child friendly imagery. If we refer to the BBC’s article the advert, ‘… opened with a voiceover saying: “This is Coral gaming, online and on mobile” before showing a shot of the Incredible Hulk, among other images.’ The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had given the green light to the advert attaching a note to Coral reinforcing, ‘… the gambling industry’s voluntary agreement not to schedule gaming adverts before 21:00.’
This is the point where I become a little puzzled. If there is a voluntary agreement in place with the gambling industry not to schedule gambling adverts before 21:00, why am I deluged with Bingo offers, including 300% sign up bonuses, during adverts for ITV’s ‘This Morning’ and reruns of ‘Frasier’ on Channel 4? I very rarely watch morning TV as I have not yet lost the will to live. However, my youngest offspring, during a recent period of early rising, would quietly await my arrival downstairs to cook his breakfast whilst watching TV. He was exposed to a number of Bingo adverts and sensibly asked if Bingo was gambling. His enquiry dealt with, I switched off the television and gave him a brief forgetful lecture about over exposure to TV and enforced a policy of no TV in the morning unless it was the BBC news channel. Needless to say I have been utterly ignored, but this is to digress. Why is bingo advertising allowed at this time, and as my son has demonstrated, why is it allowed if it can influence the young.
With morning TV and its associated dangers dealt with, in my mind at least, I will turn my attention to periods of advertising closer to the 21:00 watershed.
Football in the UK is dominated by the Premier League and the Champions League. As I hold a fervent dislike for anything Murdoch I refuse to sign up for the Sports Channel which monopolises Premier League games. I comfort myself that Football in the UK is a declining sport, besmirched by overpaid Prima Donnas whose god given gift on the football pitch has saved them from a life of crime or benefits subsistence. However, this all changes with the free to view Champions League. Suddenly the decks have to be cleared and no discussion is allowed in front of the TV except that of my wizened self. During these games I have been greeted during the breaks with every working class male’s fantasy best mucker, Ray Winstone. Ray’s disembodied head spurts advice at me during the half time break informing on the odds on offer and asking me to try live in-play betting; I am assured, ‘You’ll love it!’ Once again my youngest son questions me regarding this particular activity, the question is asked, ‘Is that gambling Dad?’ I will not bore you with my second fruitless lecture as my son’s eyes clouded over faster than a British summer’s day. I would like to state however, that again pre 21:00 hours advertising for a gambling product was reaching the young.
The Commission’s stance on this matter is, as to be expected, to relinquish responsibility to the operator via a voluntary code. The Commission state that the voluntary code; ‘… requires that new gambling products (NB not those, such as bingo, that were permissible prior to 1 September 2007), should not be advertised on television before the commonly accepted watershed time of 9.00pm.’ However, there is a cop-out. The Commission state the ‘exception to the rule’ is, ‘the advertising of sports betting around televised sporting events. The majority of these events take place or begin before 9.00pm and given the direct relationship between the two it would be unreasonable to prevent the advertising of betting opportunities.’ So we have a Commission which is cautious to avoid obstructing the bookmakers from earning their trade. Additionally, they would not get in the way of Bingo operators targeting stay at home mothers on breakfast TV.
Please do not assume I am an anti-gambler. I simply believe that regardless of the connection between specific sports and betting, something if we take cricket into consideration cannot be argued as beneficial in any form, that connection should not allow wealthy operators to target TV when children are around to be influenced. I do strongly believe that if the UK Government is going to introduce a consumption tax on online gambling operators, they should also fund an interventionist public health campaign explaining the perils of gambling. This is not a “Gamble Aware” moment. When I see Gamble Aware splattered on a sports betting site it simply reminds me to ensure the site I am on is offering the best price. I am talking about a high visibility interventionist public health scheme which replaces the ‘downstream’ car crash reactive environment we currently witness (and the consequent poor publicity the industry receives). We find the afflicted problem or compulsive gambler and try to sew them back together after they have been torn apart. What the Commission fail to take into consideration is the other delights punters may encounter when seeking out advertised sports betting or bingo sites. I cannot recall football and betting being intrinsically linked to casinos, scratch cards and slots.
The UK Government will earn huge amounts of betting duty should a consumption tax be introduced. If the government is happy to let gaming operators advertise as discussed, let us see an equally weighted public health campaign to counter the impression these adverts have created in my 11 year olds mind.
This rant was originally published by the same author on https://gamblinglicensingadvice.wordpress.com/