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Regulator launches ban on adverts that entice problem gamblers | Society

Ads that encourage betting during live events or offer ‘free’ bets and bonuses will be banned

Adverts such as Ray Winstone’s appearances for Bet365 urging people to bet during live matches will be banned from the beginning of April.
Photograph: Bet365

Ray Winstone’s days urging punters to “bet in play … now!” during live matches are over as the advertising regulator has introduced a ban on ads that appeal to problem gamblers.

The two bodies that set the code UK advertisers must abide by – the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice – have announced a crackdown on ads that “exploit people’s vulnerabilities or play fast and loose with eye-catching free bet and bonus offers”.

Top of the list is a ban on ads that “create an inappropriate sense of urgency, like those including ‘bet now!’ offers during live events”.

This will mean the end of so-called “in-play” betting offers calling on viewers to gamble as they watch a live event, of which Winstone is the most well-known proponent as the face of the online gambling company Bet365.

The new rules include curbing the “trivialisation of gambling”, such as by encouraging repetitive play, and ending undue emphasis on giving punters “money motives” for gambling.

Also banned will be ads that give an “irresponsible perception of risk or control”, such as by telling viewers they have a risk-free deposit or bonus.

Gambling companies will also have to be more responsible when they offer free bets and bonuses, which are often advertised as if there are no strings attached. This will include making it clear if punters have to deposit their own funds to be eligible, only get restricted odds, or have to deposit money before being allowed to access any winnings from free bets and bonus offers.

“We won’t tolerate gambling ads that exploit people’s vulnerabilities or play fast and loose with eye-catching free bet and bonus offers,” said Shahriar Coupal, the director of the two committees. “Our new guidance takes account of the best available evidence to strengthen the protections already in place, ensuring that gambling is presented responsibly, minimising the potential for harm.”

Last year, it emerged that more than 2 million people in the UK are either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction, according to the Gambling Commission. The industry regulator warned the government and industry that they were not doing enough to tackle the problem.

The new rules, which are enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority, will come into force on 2 April, though the rules on free bets and bonuses will come in immediately.

Betting and gambling companies spent £150m on advertising last year, with TV accounting for the lion’s share at £43m, according to media estimates. The biggest spenders included Bet365 (£23m), Sky Bet (£22m), William Hill (£16.4m), Coral (£15.8m) and Ladbrokes (£15m).

From Portakabin to £500m profits

• The firm’s big break came in 2005 when the Labour government deregulated gambling and made Britain one of the most liberal markets in the world, particularly online.

• The market has grown from nothing to be worth £4.5bn and accounts for more than 40% of total bets.

• The latest Bet365 revenue figures should catapult the company into second place in the UK, behind Ladbrokes Coral, which was created by a merger of two of Britain’s oldest betting companies.

• Bet365’s success means it now employs almost 4,000 people, makes more than £500m in profit and has a billionaire boss.

The companies’ spend was significantly more when including TV sponsorship deals. Bet365 has a multimillion-pound deal to sponsor Sky Sports’ Premier League coverage.

Last year, the ASA received 900 complaints about 700 betting and gambling ads. It ruled that 24 were in breach of the code. In 2016, there were almost 1,800 complaints about 722 ads, with 35 breaking the rules.

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