How Gambling Advertising Has Changed 

Advertising is critical to promoting any business and is the primary way that customers learn of the services, products and bonuses of a particular company. In recent years, gambling companies have come under a fair bit of scrutiny for their approaches to advertising, with many people questioning whether they should be held to account for the rise in cases of problem gamblers.

Although gambling has been around for centuries, it was until the 1960s that it was formally legalised in the UK. Gaming magnate George Alfred James opened the first casino in the UK in 1961, and by 1968, many more rules and regulations had been loosened, paving the way for the establishments of more casinos and legal betting shops across the country. In the early days after legalisation, gambling was still frowned upon by large parts of society, and shops had to blackout their windows to stop them from being noticed.

 Naturally, this meant advertising was extremely low key or non-existent, and it was really up to individuals to look for their local bookmakers and place their bets accordingly. Although gambling became part of the social fabric throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, the next major uphaul wasn’t until 2005, with the UK Gambling Act’s passing. The Gambling Act brought about further deregulation in the gambling sector, and enabled marketers to reach a much wider audience than had previously been possible.

The Guardian published an article in which they outlined the significant changes in gambling advertisements in the years that followed the publication of The Gambling Act. In 2007, 234,000 gambling ads ran, which was also the year the sector was deregulated. By 2012, that number had increased to an incredible 1.39 million, an increase of 600%. Before the deregulation, ads were only permitted for football pools, the National Lottery, and Bingo premises. In the years that followed, it was a free-for-all across the gambling sector, with high-street bookmakers competing for their potential customers’ attention for the first time.

By 2017, football betting in particular had really exploded in popularity, with a BBC reporter finding that 95% of TV advertising breaks during live UK football matches featured at least one gambling advert. At the same time, one in five of the commercials broadcast across 25 matches were for betting firms, as bookmakers promoted their in-play offers and special promotions to customers while they were tuning into the football.

In addition to gambling advertisements being prevalent on TV during football matches, gambling companies have proven to be extremely profitable partners for football clubs throughout the UK. In the 2019-20 season, ten of the twenty Premier League clubs, and seventeen of the twenty-four Championship clubs were sponsored by gambling firms, generating more than £350 million in sponsorship deals for the clubs.

In 2020, a House of Lords Select Committee Report recommended that Premier League clubs should no longer be allowed to have betting firms on their shirts, citing the fact that such practice has led to more and more people becoming addicted to gambling as a result of watching football. It’s still yet to be seen how football’s relationship with gambling companies will change in the coming years, but we can certainly expect some changes.

For gambling more broadly, a new Gambling Act is expected in 2021, with much tighter regulations expected, particularly in regards to gambling as well as betting limits. As gambling advertising has changed rapidly in the past twenty years, we are likely to see further significant changes in the next decade to come, as the government seeks to address the issue of problem gambling in the country.

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