Gambling firms spent half a billion pounds on TV adverts since 2012

The figures from Nielsen show that spending on betting ads is up by 46% as campaigners call for stricter regulations

Ben Chapman
Monday 18 July 2016 11:03
Comments
Betting firms have upped their spending in recent years - revenues have also increased
Betting firms have upped their spending in recent years - revenues have also increased

Gambling companies spent nearly half a billion pounds on TV advertising in the last three and a half years, figures compiled by Nielsen show.

The spend increased from £81.2 million in 2012 to £118.5 million in 2015, a jump of 46 per cent. The total amount the industry has spent over the period is £456 million.

This does not include a further £169 million shelled out for lottery adverts, nor does it take into account the increased advertising spend in the run-up to the Euro 2016 football tournament last month.

A 2013 Ofcom review showed that the number of TV adverts for casinos, bingo and sports betting had increased by 500 per cent in the previous six years.

The new figures show that this increase has continued unabated.

Adrian Parkinson, leader of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said that the increase is the direct result of lax Government legislation.

“The rapid increase in advertising expenditure is a symptom of the free-for-all that was opened by the 2005 Gambling Act and Labour's total liberalisation of gambling and the advertising of it,” he said.

The Act, which came into force in 2007, allowed betting companies more freedom to advertise. Previously, gambling ads on TV had been restricted to the National Lottery, bingo and the football pools.

“Huge growth” in gambling losses

Parkinson, a former gambling industry insider who became a whistleblower for the BBC's Panorama, said that the “the growth in gambling advertising is spurring a huge growth in gambling losses by consumers and greater profits for the operators.”

Figures released last month by industry regulator the Gambling Commission show that the increase in advertising spend coincided with a 40 per cent rise in the amount wagered by British gamblers.

Last year the industry generated a record £12.6 billion, up from £9 billion in 2012.

Gambling on fixed-odds betting terminals was up by 18 per cent in the same period. The betting shop machines, which allow customers to wager up to £100 every 20 seconds, have been called the “crack-cocaine” of gambling because of their high addictive potential and the possibility for users to quickly rack up hefty losses.

“The Treasury will be very pleased that losses on gambling are up 40 per cent - they are sharing in it,” Parkinson said, referring to the increased tax revenues that the Government receives from betting firms. But he claimed that the NHS has seen costs rise as a result of more problem gambling.

The NHS does not provide separate figures for the amount it spends on treatment for gambling addiction but does estimate the number of problem gamblers in the UK to be 593,000.

Gambling charity GamCare said it had experienced an 18 per cent increase in calls from problem gamblers last year.

Industry changes

The industry has made some changes to the way it advertises.

In 2007 betting companies signed up to the Committee of Advertising Practice, a voluntary code preventing adverts for certain types of gambling before the 9pm watershed and requiring all adverts to include a reference to the Gamble Aware website.

Gamble Aware is run by the Responsible Gambling Trust, an industry-funded charity. Its website points out that 73 per cent of people gambled last year and only a small number develop a problem.

In 2014 the charity carried out its own study which found that “the impact of advertising on the prevalence of problem gambling is likely to be... relatively small.”

Advertising is “one of many environmental factors that contribute to the prevalence of problem gambling,” the report said.

It found that “only in particular conditions, such as extensive advertising for especially risky forms of gambling that are offered on an immature market with few if any player protection features would increased advertising contribute to further problem gambling.”

Parkinson said that self-regulation of gambling advertising had not been effective and called for new legislation: “What we really need is a government that is willing to undertake a new Gambling Act to try and reign in the monster that the previous one has unleashed.”

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