The UK online gambling industry is going through some considerable changes. The concern about problem gambling is widespread and the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) is engaged in a series of investigations into how to make gambling safer.
Charities, help bodies and regulators are all coming together to help to tackle the problem, and the UK government has emphasised on many occasions that they are willing to implement any changes which are needed.
Recently, Kenny Alexander, the boss of GVC, which owns Ladbrokes and Coral, suggested that there should be a universal ban on betting adverts during TV sport broadcasts.
He also said that that the sponsorship of football shirts by gambling brands should cease too.
Mr Alexander said:
“The industry should and can do more to protect the vulnerable and today’s announcement demonstrates GVC’s commitment to delivering on that.”
Further afield, the Swedish government is flirting with the idea of banning online casino advertising altogether.
This got us thinking, are universal bans on casino adverts and promotional material really the answer? Are there other ways to make online gambling safer and to help stop people from developing gambling problems?
These are the questions we will explore in this blog post.
Change the Betting Culture
Of course, changing the betting culture of the UK is no easy task and will require changes in many areas, including at a societal level.
There is a general mentality among a certain section of the British population – principally men from around the ages of 18 – 35, that gambling is just a bit of fun and that there is no harm in it.
This is especially true when it comes to sports betting. It’s almost an expectation that a sports fan will bet on sports.
The bottom line is that betting and gambling is an expense. It’s almost as if this is forgotten among a lot of people who gamble.
This is why it is key for responsible gambling to be encouraged. The idea of completely banning casino and bonus adverts sounds potentially positive at face value but it doesn’t get to the core of the issue of problem gambling, which is, the need to encourage and emphasise responsible gambling.
Banning casino adverts outright does nothing to actually change the betting culture. Essentially, it masks the issue of problem gambling, but doesn’t get to the root of it.
Gamblers are far less likely to fall into gambling problems if they fully understand the importance of responsible gambling and play in a manner which reflects that.
We are not suggesting there shouldn’t be any action taken towards reducing irresponsible marketing by operators.
However, if there is to be real success in tackling problem gambling, there needs to be a change in the way people approach and think about gambling.
More Responsible Marketing
Evidently, there is a problem within the industry of irresponsible marketing.
There have been numerous stories over the past few months of problem gamblers being bombarded with casino bonus and promotional adverts, which has led them to engage in destructive gambling behaviour.
A move towards responsible marketing among all operators is essential, not only to safeguard players from gambling-related harm, but also to restore the trust between operators and players.
In a recent report released by the UKGC, just 30% of those surveyed stated that they believe gambling is fair and can be trusted.
Trust needs to be rebuilt. With honest and responsible marketing, trust can begin to be rekindled between operators and players.
Banning Adverts is Not the Answer
Reckless and relentless promotional material is clearly a problem, and this must be tackled.
But the idea of banning casino adverts outright is not the solution. After all, any company has the right to advertise their products.
However, the vital thing is responsible and professional marketing.
Big, catchy phrases like ‘Best odds here!’ ‘£800 welcome package!’ ‘Bet now’ etc are the sort of adverts which can be irresponsible, especially when the full terms and conditions of a bonus are not clearly specified.
More subtle advertising is key. By this we mean a move away from the big, sensationalist phrases and instead, a move towards more personable marketing.
Making the whole marketing process more human, relatable and with responsible gambling at its core.
Marketing doesn’t need the loud and brash promotional methods which have been a leading cause in the spread of problem gambling.
When you consider many other industries, subtle marketing is a tactic which is very commonly used and yet in the online gambling industry, this feels sorely lacking.
More responsible marketing will undoubtedly help to build bridges between operators and players again.
Some Might Turn Elsewhere
If widespread bans were put in place to stop casino advertising, it is more likely that players will look towards other casinos and potentially, unscrupulous ones.
Unfortunately, there are rogue casinos operating in the marketplace, including those offering their services to UK players without a licence.
This would be a dangerous trend for players of all persuasions, not just those with gambling problems.
More Effective Self Exclusion Schemes
There have also been stories of players receiving constant promotional material from operators even when they have signed-up to self-exclusion schemes.
This is patently wrong and it is something which must be addressed. In short, more effective self-exclusion schemes are desperately needed.
Again, the answer is not to simply ban casino adverts outright, but to have more effective measures in place.
It is worth noting that the UKGC has said that they are looking into these kinds of self-exclusion problems.
Also, it is key that operators have more safety measures in place to recognise the signs of reckless depositing, and act accordingly.
This includes stopping any promotional activity towards that player when the signs are clear and evident.
Unfortunately, some operators are clearly ignoring these signs and instead, offering these players more bonuses and promotions.
Clear Terms and Conditions
This is something we’ve emphasised a couple of times now, but it is prudent to mention it again.
With clearer terms and conditions and more responsible marketing, there isn’t a need for a blanket ban on casino advertising.
If casino adverts clearly state the wagering requirements, wagering contributions of different games, the eligible games and the maximum winnings from the bonus, this is a step in the right direction.
Perhaps even a brief explanation of wagering requirements could also be added to adverts and promotional material, all in keeping with encouraging responsible gambling.
Responsible Gambling and Advertising is the Way Forward
We don’t believe that widespread bans such as the ones proposed in Sweden are the answer to problem gambling.
The key thing is for operators and players to move towards, and emphasise, responsible and honest gambling.
Action certainly needs to be taken towards curbing irresponsible marketing, but there are many effective ways to tackle problem gambling without the need for universal advertising bans.