U.K. to Ban Celeb and Sports Stars in Betting Ads

Part 2 of the GGB News special report on the U.K. crackdown, ahead of the release of a white paper on gambling reform, the U.K. will ban the use of celebrities and sports stars on advertisements for gambling, such as popular footballer Roy Keane (l.). The goal is to eliminate the harmful effects on children.

U.K. to Ban Celeb and Sports Stars in Betting Ads

In the U.K., sports figures and celebrities will not be permitted to appear in gambling ads as of October 1. The likes of Jose Mourinho, Jack Wilshire, Harry Redknapp and Chris Hughes will become a thing of the past.

The Advertising Standards Authority’s Committee of Advertising Practice has created a new set of rules, designed to deter operators from using advertising practices that risk luring “young people and vulnerable audiences.” The intention is to prevent ads piggybacking youth culture to push adult products.

It pointed out that gambling advertising in general has proliferated significantly since the Gambling Act of 2005 came into force. Concerns over the intrusive levels of advertising and sponsorship on TV during sports tournaments led to a whistle-to-whistle ban in 2019, which is believed to have slashed the number of TV ads seen by 4 to 17-year-olds by 97 percent. Shirt sponsorships are also being phased out, according to the Tottenham Report.

The move is palatable enough for an industry that has both long seen it coming and in recent years has been more receptive to initiatives that demonstrate a greater commitment to player protection.

“It is worth remembering that according to the Gambling Commission, the proportion of young people who gambled in a previous seven day period fell from 23 per cent in 2011 to 11 per cent in 2019,” said Michael Dugher, director of the Betting and Gaming Council trade group.

The most popular forms of betting by young people are playing cards, scratchcards, bets between friends and fruit machines—not with BGC members. “The BGC take a zero-tolerance approach to gambling by those under 18 and we enforce the toughest possible action.”

Interestingly, despite the apparent appetite for these reforms from the industry and beyond, the House of Commons Library white paper cited a DCMS review in 2016, in which broadcasters, the ASA/CAP, the Advertising Association, and sporting bodies as having all pointed to research showing that “the impact of advertising on problem gambling was small.”

Likewise, it found that an Ipsos MORI report in 2020 had characterized the links between advertising and gambling behavior as “complex and multifaceted”. While advertising was known to increased substantially, the number level of gambling addiction was understood to have remined fairly stable, although the report adds the caveat that levels of ‘gambling-related harm’ were harder to quantify.

The changes will be in place in time for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

The new rules state that sportspeople, celebrities and social media influencers who are “likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture” will be banned from gambling and lottery advertisements.

CAP said this includes footballers with a large under-18 following on social media, according to Sky News.

Shahriar Coupal, director of CAP, says: “By ending these practices, our new rules invite a new era for gambling ads, more particular to the adult audience they can target and more befitting of the age-restricted product they’re promoting.”

Former Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho has been featured in Paddy Power advertisements, as has former Arsenal player Jack Wilshere. Former Love Island contestant Chris Hughes holds an ambassadorial role for Coral Racing.

Micah Richards and Roy Keane have featured heavily in Sky Bet commercials alongside Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling.

In related news, the Betting and Gaming Council will support new advertising laws banning the use of sports stars and celebrities in ads supported by the Committee of Advertising Practice. On April 5, CAP announced a change in rules to ensure that advertisements do not appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture, according to SBCNews.

Responding to CAP’s new enforcement Dugher said:

“The BGC supports these changes not least because they build on a whole range of measures we have led in recent times to drive up standards and ensure further protections in advertising,” Dugher said.

“In 2019, BGC members introduced the whistle-to-whistle ban on TV betting commercials during live sport before the 9 p.m. watershed, which led to the number of such ads being seen by young people at that time falling by 97 percent.”

The future outcome of U.K. gambling advertising, marketing and sponsorship disciplines will be decided by the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act. These recommendations will await publication of a white paper after Easter.