Are ITV Scoring an Own Goal By Not Banning Gambling Ads During Euro 2020?

ITV Logo on TV ScreenThe voluntary ban agreed amongst betting firms not to show their adverts before the 9pm watershed will remain in place throughout Euro 2020, which gets underway today.

However, there are concerns that such a move does not go far enough to prevent problem gamblers and even children from seeing the ads.

Two of England’s group games during the tournament will kick off at 20:00 GMT, and while the ‘whistle to whistle’ veto will ensure no ads are shown pre-watershed, there is nothing to stop firms from advertising immediately after the final whistle.

With millions expected to watch Gareth Southgate’s team in action, the fear is that many will be exposed to gambling content that might otherwise not ‘consume’ it in their daily lives.

The head of the Common’s all-party group on gambling harm, Ronnie Cowan, has called for a ban on gambling ads throughout the Euros, and said that betting marketing ‘should be tolerated, not promoted.’

“The European Championships should be about the beautiful game, but it will be impossible to watch without exposure to gambling ads,” he said. “This type of advertising can have a devastating effect on young people and the vulnerable.

“My fear is that, with the greater exposure to gambling adverts this football festival will bring, new victims will suffer.”

More than £2.3 billion was bet on the World Cup of 2018 in the UK alone, and that shows the extent of the potential problem that could unravel this summer.

ITV showed more than 90 minutes of gambling ads throughout that tournament, but have reassured viewers that there will be a significant reduction this time around.

A spokesperson for the broadcaster commented: “The majority of matches ITV plans to broadcast live have 2pm or 5pm kick-offs and will have no gambling ads under the ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban.

“The remainder (which all have an 8pm kick-off) will have no gambling ads in the ad breaks [immediately] before kick-off or at half time.”

But does that stance go far enough?

Advertising Standards Authority Keeping a Close Eye

Friends Watching Football on TV

The UK’s advertising watchdog has confirmed that they are concerned by the number of gambling ads that children are being exposed to.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will be keeping a close eye on operators, after the number of ads which were displayed in places/times that children could see increased in 2020 compared to the previous year’s data.

The whistle-to-whistle ban was described as being ‘far from foolproof’ by the ASA, and they intend to use a variety of technical tools to monitor and identify problem ads and those pushing them.

They did accept, however, that the number of gambling ads shown on TV had fallen significantly from the 2013 nadir, and that the exposure of children to those adverts – relative to adults – had fallen by some 22%.

And it was sports betting that had contributed most to that decrease, with children actually exposed to more ads for lottery products and scratchcards in 2020.

BGC Slams ‘Sunday School Prohibitionists’

Ad Free ITV

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has played down calls for a complete ban on gambling adverts during Euro 2020.

Their chief executive, Michael Dugher, has claimed that the theory of harmful ads is ‘not backed up by the evidence.’

He referenced the likes of John Whittingdale, the MP overseeing the Gambling Act 2015 review, and Baroness Barren, who have both been vocal in their support of the industry.

Indeed, Whittingdale has pointed at an academic study which ‘did not establish a causal link’ between watching/seeing an advert and subsequent problem gambling.

“Of course, there will also be anti-gambling campaigners – Sunday school prohibitionists and the like – who will use any excuse to repeat their calls for banning advertising,” Dugher said.

“But serious policy-makers have to deal in evidence, not excuses. The painful reality for those who don’t like betting is that their arguments simply do not stack up.”

Dugher also pointed to the fact that at least 20% of betting ads promote a safer gambling message, and that strict guidelines have helped to slash the number of children and vulnerable individuals exposed to sports betting.

The number of young people that have admitted to gambling has fallen from 23% in 2011 to 11% in the last known study in 2019, he also noted.