UK operators to stop TV and radio advertising during COVID-19 lockdown

Members of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) will stop audiovisual advertising during the coronavirus lockdown.

Members of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) have agreed to voluntarily stop all advertising across television and radio while the UK remains under lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 16, the UK government announced it would extend the lockdown for an additional three weeks.

No more audiovisual advertising

According to the BGC announcement, members of the industry body will stop all audiovisual advertising by 7 May, and the measure will stay in place until at least 5 June.

The restriction on audiovisual advertising will only be reviewed once lockdown measures in the UK have been relaxed.

BGC Chief executive Michael Dugher said: “This major announcement by our members will result in the removal of half of all product advertising on TV and radio. I hope now that other major gambling operators like the National Lottery follow our lead.”

While BGC members will cease advertising on television and radio, operators will continue to advertise via email and social media. However, the BGC said members have “significantly” reduced the volume of advertising on these channels.

Dugher added: “We have been working closely with our member companies since this crisis began to monitor the impact of betting and gaming. There hasn’t been an explosion in people betting online as some had predicted – in fact, the opposite is true with total revenue down by up to 60 per cent.

“Overall gambling levels have also fallen significantly as a result of betting shops and casinos closing and the suspension of live sport. And whilst advertising levels on sports and casino are also down, again contrary to some assertions, we recognise that removing product advertising will act as a further safeguard during COVID-19.”

Responsible gambling in the UK

The decision to halt all audiovisual advertising during the lockdown comes after the  UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) called for UK operators to step up responsible gambling efforts during the lockdown.

Last week, Minister for sport, tourism and heritage Nigel Huddleston reminded operators of their responsibilities and encouraged the industry to take extra steps to protect consumers during this time of “heightened risk.” Huddleston also called for the UK’s leading operators to implement new controls, many of these were already outlined in a ten-point plan published by the BGC in March.

Under measures announced in March, BGC members agreed to make safer gambling messaging much more prominent across all sites and when communicating with customers. BGC members also agreed to take action when customer playtime and money spend would increase significantly.

Dugher said: “From day one of this crisis we have sought to protect customers potentially at risk, including announcing stepping up safer gambling measures as part of our ten pledges for COVID-19 in March. This latest move by the regulated industry further underlines our commitment to safer betting and gaming with many people cut off and feeling anxious.

“Throughout this crisis, as the new standards body, the BGC has worked very closely with the Government. Ministers and the regulator all deserve credit for their steadfast and consistent determination to have an evidence-led approach and to rightly call for higher standards.

“There will always be alarmist noises from anti-gambling prohibitionists who just want to grab headlines, but it is this serious, constructive and evidence-led approach by the BGC’s regulated members that has resulted in this further major change.”

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