UK gambling charity calls for stricter advertising warnings amid Euro 2024 surge

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With the expected increase in betting advertisements during the upcoming Euro 2024 football tournament, the UK’s gambling charity, GambleAware, is advocating for changes in the presentation of these ads. The charity is pushing for smoking-style warnings on adverts for bookmakers and online casinos, arguing that the current industry-approved slogan, “Take Time To Think,” is inadequate.

As reported by The Guardian, GambleAware’s proposal comes amid concerns that an increase in gambling adverts during major football events could worsen issues for those struggling with gambling addiction. Research suggests that constant exposure to betting ads makes it difficult for problem gamblers to reduce or quit their habits.

The charity, funded by donations from the gambling industry, has drafted new guidelines advocating for health warnings on ads. These include messages like “Gambling can be addictive” and “Gambling comes at a cost.” The call to replace “Take Time To Think” sets GambleAware at odds with the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC), the industry lobby group that created the slogan in collaboration with the government, academics, and GambleAware itself.

The “Take Time To Think” campaign was launched as a successor to the criticized “When the fun stops, stop” slogan. The BGC defended the campaign, highlighting its customer research and consultations aimed at promoting responsible betting.

According to a YouGov survey commissioned by GambleAware, over half of those with gambling problems reported that seeing gambling ads made it hard to cut down. Similarly, 55% felt unable to escape such adverts.

Alexia Clifford, Chief Communications Officer at GambleAware, highlighted the need for stronger advertising restrictions. “We know that gambling advertising can contribute to the normalization of gambling as just a bit of ‘harmless fun’,” Clifford said. “We want to see stronger restrictions on gambling advertising to protect people from harm. We hope the health warnings and clear signposting set out in these new guidelines will ensure that people are clear about the risks of gambling and where to go for help and support should they need it.”

The charity’s funding structure has faced scrutiny due to potential conflicts of interest, given its reliance on industry donations, which totaled £50 million last year. While these donations are technically voluntary, the well-established system has allowed operators to avoid a mandatory levy.

The UK government had proposed replacing the voluntary system with a statutory levy to enhance funding for research, education, and treatment as part of a gambling reform white paper released last year. However, this proposal remains unresolved due to political uncertainties, including a summer election called by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The Labour Party has yet to clarify its stance on implementing the levy if it wins the general election.

Responding to GambleAware’s new guidelines, the BGC reiterated the collaborative nature of the “Take Time To Think” campaign and expressed its willingness to engage in future discussions on customer messaging with the next government.

As Euro 2024 approaches, the debate over gambling advertising regulations is set to intensify, with GambleAware pushing for more stringent measures to protect vulnerable individuals from the potential harms of gambling.