Gambling has been a huge part of British culture for several decades. Traditionally men would head to the bookmakers with their friends to place bets, then head to the pub to watch the football. Britain has some of the most relaxed gambling laws in the developed world, and in recent years itís become apparent that itís not necessarily been positive. Multiple official bodies have noted an increase in gambling addictions since the advent of online casinos.†
According to a study conducted by UK charity Gambling Aware, 1.4 million Brits are currently suffering from problem gambling. The UK Gambling Commission also conducted a study looking at how likely people are to develop a gambling addiction. The study concluded that 1.2% of all people who gamble have developed an addiction. However, if you look specifically at sports betting this figure increases to 2.5%, and the numbers are even more frightening when you look at online casino games where the study found that 9.2% of all those who play online casino games become addicted. With all of this in mind, the public and experts alike have begun to wonder why gambling is so widely advertised and if gambling advertising regulations have begun to slip behind the technology.
The General Publicís Perception of Gambling
In 2020, the UEFA European Football Championship became the target of protesters. The Gambling with Lives charity launched the ďBig StepĒ campaign along with a group of 60 gambling law reform advocates, prominent political figures and survivors of gambling addiction to call for a ban on advertising gambling during games. The campaigners suggested that advertising gambling helps to normalise betting and encourages younger generations to take part. This is a big problem because studies have linked gambling at a younger age to increased levels of addiction in later life.
The UK has famously lax laws surrounding gambling. Until 2005, when the UK Gambling Commission was founded, there was no regulatory body governing bookmakers, both online and physical. Even when the commission was formed it was only to regulate online casinos and sportsbooks to ensure that they were reputable. Until 2019 there were no laws against anything in the gambling industry, and this was a huge point of contention for many protestors and recovering addicts, as well as for the government who were watching a huge rise in problem gambling. In 2019 the government imposed a maximum bet of £2 per turn on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals as these were identified as one of the big causes of gambling addiction, but the industry was still left with very few rules to follow.
Ever Changing Gambling Regulations
In April 2021 the government passed a law that banned the use of credit cards when depositing funds for online gambling in an attempt to reduce the level of debt associated with problem gambling. However, many charities argue that the government still isnít doing enough to curb gambling addictions, and a big part of their criticisms lie in the huge amount of gambling advertisements on TV, social media and in print.
Currently, gambling advertisements arenít allowed before 9 pm in the UK but this doesnít apply to sponsors of sports matches which is a massive loophole as most football games are played in the afternoon.
What Does The Future Hold?
In 2021 the government are expected to consider much stricter reforms with a focus on some advertising issues, such as banning celebrities from appearing, but critics argue that not enough is being done. While the Advertising Standards Agency has rules about the content of adverts, there is no specific law that covers where they are allowed to advertise. Social media has become a huge platform for gambling ads, partially because itís so unregulated. It also offers potential customers the ability to click straight through to the website, rather than marketers relying on someone seeing the ad on TV or as sponsors of games and going to the website or bookmakerís shop. Combined with companies like Facebookís huge reach, marketers are able to target people with specific interests which may lead to unwittingly targeting problem gamblers.
What Does This Mean For Gambling Regulation?
Although the UK is known for being quite relaxed with the gambling regulations, it is something that is always being addressed. On top of that, the Advertising Standards Agency is starting to crack down on social media being used as a way to advertise products. Over recent years, the trend to work with social media influencers is something that has grown quickly, and in a way, the Advertising Standards Agency couldnít keep up. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram allow people to reach large audiences within just a few clicks and it took a while for advertising standards to keep up with this Ė however, they are certainly starting to catch up now as their recently published list of high profile influencers that have consistently broken online advertising rules shows.
Technology is changing how most of us access information and how companies reach their potential audiences. Even reviews of the best online casinos often have mobile apps offering more features than on desktop, displaying how quickly tech has shifted the landscape and how people are accessing entertainment differently than ever before. There is nothing wrong with this at all and it is something that is likely to continue to evolve. However, if gambling advertising and gambling regulating bodies want to stay on top of things theyíll have to start to take technology and how it is changing things much more seriously.
What this means for gambling advertising online in general remains to be seen, even in the current set of gambling reforms being discussed, there is still no mention of stricter regulations on social media advertising. The recent looks at gambling advertising have tended to focus on TV adverts and sponsoring games because thatís where the media attention has been so far. However, with the media catching onto the fact that the Advertising Standards Agency are starting to come down harder on rule-breakers, it could be that this is something that is addressed in the future.
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