Gambling industry warned over its advertising practices
A storm is gathering for the gambling industry due to concerns over its advertising practices, the sector's regulator has said.
Gambling Commission programme director Ian Angus told a conference in London discussing responsible marketing for gambling operators that the public felt "besieged" by advertising and was concerned about the effect it was having on young people.
However, the Remote Gambling Association said accusations the industry was ignoring warnings were unfair.
The issue of gambling advertising has come increasingly into focus, especially following this year's World Cup in Russia, with Labour having pledged a "whistle-to-whistle" ban on gambling advertising during sporting events.
Angus said there was a need for "a proper and constructive debate about gambling marketing and advertising, including sponsorship arrangements in sport".
He added: "At a time when consumer trust in gambling is at an all-time low, it would be unwise for the industry to ignore the hardening public and political mood around advertising."
Angus said it was difficult to see how the "as is" scenario was sustainable, adding: "Parliamentary questions on advertising are tabled almost weekly, media headlines scream about irresponsible marketing practices and prominent politicians, from across the political divide, are calling for drastic measures to reduce children's exposure."
Angus criticised the industry's advertising of free bets and bonuses, saying it had been warned "time and time again" about misleading practices but had failed to act.
"It’s done incalculable damage to the industry’s reputation and it could, and should, have been avoided," he said.
He referred to one example of affiliate marketing as "some of the most appalling 'adverts' I have ever seen", while also saying the industry had "stumbled, needlessly, into controversies about ad placement and ads of particular appeal to under-18s".
Angus told the audience that the public's mood was hardening and the spotlight was "very firmly" on advertising.
"People feel besieged and worry about the impact it may be having on younger generations," he said. "Standards haven’t been good enough and the industry has paid the price – financially."
He added: "My advice to you is this. A storm is gathering, but it can be avoided. Learn from the mistakes of the past – listen to what the public is saying and put responsible advertising standards at the very heart of your business.
"Don’t wait for the storm clouds to burst and precautionary measures to be triggered. Step up now and own this."
RGA chief executive Clive Hawkswood conceded there had been "unfortunate lapses" with regard to advertising rules and that the commission was "right to highlight those".
He added: "However, any suggestion that the industry has been ignoring the 'warning signs' is very wide of the mark."
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