On Monday 27th April, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) announced that they would be voluntarily removing all TV and radio gaming advertising during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The BGC is the single industry association for betting and gaming, representing betting shops, online gaming businesses and casinos. They represent approximately 90% of the UK betting and gaming industry and all major players.
The news was picked up by most major news outlets including the BBC, Sky News and Mail Online all reporting on it.
The news headlines were somewhat misleading however and implied that all advertising would be stopped. The BBC News ran the headline: ‘Coronavirus: Gambling firms to stop advertising during lockdown’ and the Mail Online reported: ‘Britain’s biggest gambling firms will stop all TV and radio advertising during coronavirus lockdown’.
To clear things up, the voluntary ban, as suggested at the top of this headline relates to advertising of gaming products on TV and radio. This could be gameplay on a casino site or any offer-based call to action advertising to a website and relates to Casino, Slots and Bingo, but not Sports Book currently.
Gambling brands who are part of the BGC will be able to run Safer Gambling TV and radio ads and many of them are expected to make this switch.
The BGC currently represents 50% of TV and radio spenders and they have urged non-BGC members to follow suit. There is currently no legal expectation for them to do this though and broadcasters are not looking to enforce it meaning it is likely we will continue to see other gaming advertising during the lockdown period.
Other grey areas include sponsorship and BVOD. The word is that casino and bingo sponsors will be continuing with their sponsorships as a sponsorship promotion has no call to action and doesn’t necessarily promote gaming, rather the partnership with the sponsored property.
BVOD (Broadcast Video on Demand) is also an area of debate as is technically a digital feed and therefore not TV.
The announcement appears to have been hurried and with little forewarning for brands, media owners and agencies. There is clearly quite a lot of detail to iron out ahead of the ban which is to be in place for an initial period of 7th May – 5th June.
All Response Media viewpoint
There has been a lot of press in recent months relating to gambling advertising and effects on mental health and younger audiences. This type of announcement is therefore not surprising as the Gambling Commission which represents the government has been putting pressure on companies to do more, particularly in this lockdown period where there is an attentive audience with little else to spend their money on.
We do note however that this voluntary ban does not include Sports Book and comes at a time when Sports Betting is flat-lined due to there being no sport to bet on around the globe. A cynic would argue that this is an easy decision to make for the big betting groups within the BGC as most of their betting revenues comes from Sports Book.
What this does do, however, is put certain companies at a significant disadvantage who do not have Sports Book to make up any revenue shortfall when sport is back up and running.
We also point to a debate around the fairness in singling out TV and radio for this ban. TV and radio make up c. 15% of total gambling marketing spend in the UK as £200m per annum vs. £1billion estimated in digital marketing.
Due to ‘walled garden’ data restrictions from major digital media owners, and likely little appetite from within the BGC it puts TV and radio at an unfair advantage to their closest competitors for marketing spend.
A debate for another day will be when digital marketing is going to be upheld to the same strict advertising rules that are imposed on broadcast channels.
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