AO Change

Advertising and how gambling is talked about

People say that the way gambling is talked about and shown needs to change. The gambling companies claim that they are selling a leisure activity that is no different from any other. Gambling is advertised everywhere as a fun, low-risk activity that involves a good chance of winning money. The likelihood of losing money and the danger of addiction and harm is hidden. Gambling companies use language that blames those who experience gambling difficulties for being irresponsible.

There needs to be a move away from talking about ‘responsible gambling’ and focusing only on consumers being responsible. Instead, people want the discussion to be about responsible practices by gambling companies and responsible regulation by the government. If the addiction and harm gambling causes were shown and better understood, this would be how every talked about and viewed gambling.

People want gambling advertising to be controlled like tobacco or alcohol advertising. They want to know why gambling advertising is any different when it is a product that can cause significant harm.

It has to start with education, hitting target groups of people, universities. It’s things like gamblergenic environments need to be targeted, things where gambling’s treated as the norm, where it’s socially acceptable to gamble. You get people going in doing talks in schools on drinking, drugs, safe sex, things like that, but never talk about gambling. It’s just something that’s normalized. You hear a lot about loot boxes at the minute. I struggle to get my head around that, but it’s something that’s normalized for kids. It’s a non-harmful thing to them. They’re not getting physically harmed. They’re staying in the house and doing it. It’s trying to put that information out there across to the people, that gambling, it comes with other risks. Just because it may not be putting someone in the hospital, doesn’t say they’re going to end up in a mortuary a few years down the line when you’ve lost everything. It’s hard to say that out loud but deep down, I think that’s where it’s going to take for people to listen, people losing their lives and it’s just sad. It really is.

Shift to responsible gambling companies

People want ‘responsible gambling’ slogans to be removed, as these put pressure on people to “be in control” of their gambling. This would help to reduce both self-stigma and public stigma associated with gambling.

The first thing is they need to take that onus off individuals. And there’s talk about safer gambling. I don’t want safer gambling, I want safe gambling.

And this comes back down to that industry narrative of putting all the onus upon the person who is addicted. You know, you play responsibly, you set these limits, you self-exclude. And what I needed was somebody to say, “Crikey, this isn’t okay.” You need to stop them. “What’s going on in your life? Why do you feel like this?” And then I might have found out.

They’re not going to change their business model, but we have to understand that we need to change the aggressive marketing. We need to understand a lot more about the products and how they’re designed and how they’re addictive. That insight will add into the fact that we’re now looking at it’s not just personal responsibility, it’s not just you to blame. That would start tackling stigma. It’s moving away from that whole personal responsibility.

Advertising controls

Almost everyone wanted more controls on gambling advertising. Most people want gambling advertising to be completely banned. Or if it cannot be banned, they want much stronger restrictions. Many people believe that the advertising regulations that apply to products such as tobacco and alcohol should also be applied to gambling.

This is because of how advertising impacted their own gambling and their perceptions of how it may affect others. They are especially worried about the generations of children and young people who are growing up surrounded by gambling advertising.

I would like them to ease back on gambling adverts. In fact, I would love it if they were banned completely like there’s no smoking adverts anymore. Alcohol adverts are down to an absolute minimum. Before, during, and after football matches, it’s all about gambling, but it appears now at teatime with all the adverts for bingo sites. I’d love to see that. I’d love to see the logos on football shirts [stopped]. There’s nothing worse than kids running around with a football shirt on with Bet365 on the front.

In a broad sense, I just think it should be banned. Absolutely completely banned. There should be no advertising of gambling… I’m still baffled to this very day that I can walk into my local supermarket, and I can’t visually see any cigarettes, but then the scratch cards are on the side. It makes no sense. Who is sitting there making these rules that you know these addictions worse than this addiction? If you can’t see one, I don’t think you should be able to see any.

There should be no advertising. I don’t think the gambling companies need to advertise. It’s on from such a young age and is so impressionable to children that, children do pick up on things from a young age, completely and sit and watching it. It’s all being made out, isn’t it, to be bright lights and everything’s going to where you could win, you could win. After all that, if the gambling companies wanted to continue advertising for every gambling advert that went out, afterwards there should be a disclaimer, around losses of gambling or there should be a gambling advert, the harms of gambling. I think the gambling companies should be paying for that, because they need to be weighing up the good and bad. So, if they want to carry on advertising, that would be a solution. I think it’s fair. People from the lived experience community coming out and want to share their story, talking about this is blah blah, you could win, said this is the reality of gambling and it should be a watershed, I’m not sure if it’s on a certain time. The Chase is on at five o’clock, and that’s advertised. So that’s prime time, people sitting around eating dinner. And you know, I probably shouldn’t say it, Foxy Bingo, I am going to say it again, and that’s made out to be like an animated children’s thing. So that’s going to invite them in. So future generations are already being sucked into this horrible world without even realising. It’s on YouTube, Face to Face, isn’t it, everything you go through, everywhere you look there is gambling advertising.


I would like them to look at what they are allowing to become normalised behaviour for young people from an early age, not just in, you know, computer games, TV. You know, if you look at game shows on a Saturday night, you know, you’ve literally got a ball dropping down a series of things. Anything can happen, it is complete luck, you know. There’s loads of examples of game shows out there that is complete, that is gambling, there’s no skill involved in it at all. You don’t have to answer a question, you don’t have to do anything. You know, you just have to pick a number in a game of Deal or No Deal. You know, you’re literally picking a box like. So you’re promoting that kind of activity as a fun and positive thing. And yeah, gambling for a lot of people, it’s fine because they can control it and they can enjoy it. But really, all it takes is one person to pay the ultimate price for it. Is that really OK? That’s what I would say, is that really, you know, is that really okay?


We don’t need to have it thrown down our throats. We don’t need to be exploited. Children don’t need to be exploited. They don’t need to see that it’s a norm, you know, to have gambling adverts, mum playing bingo in the middle of the afternoon, especially at a time when they know the kids are home from school. You know, there are adverts for gambling on all afternoon.

People say it is not enough to remove gambling advertising during live sport broadcast before the ‘watershed’ of 9pm. This is a voluntary arrangement by the gambling industry. Gambling companies promise not to place advertisements five minutes before the event begins and five minutes after it finishes – “whistle-to-whistle”.

This still leaves so much other gambling advertising on television during the day and at prime time, when children and families are watching. People want to see a complete removal of gambling advertising on television before 9pm. This would help to protect children and young people from being so exposed to gambling advertising.

For me, this is why I do the Big Step. I do the Big Step because it is based around gambling advertisements within football. I believe there should be a watershed. I don’t think there should be any gambling adverts till after 9:00 PM. It’s common knowledge. It’s not even rocket science. You don’t even have to go and research it. The morning advertisements are for the single parents who’ve got kids at school sitting there doing nothing, and obviously, weekend advertisements is for every Joey who wants to bet on a football game. That’s basically that in a nutshell. There should be a watershed at 9:00 PM, where before an advert can be shown I’d say like 9:00 till 6:00 AM in the morning, where normal people will be thinking about going to bed or settling down for the night and everything. So it’s not going to be, they may see one before they go to sleep, but you turn your TV on at seven o’clock in the morning and you’ll see a gambling advert within the first hour. For me, personally, there should be a watershed and it should be 9:00 PM onwards like they’ve done with other things that they’re not allowed to show. Why is gambling advertisement any different when it’s a product that can basically kill people? It’s common knowledge. One person a day dies through gambling addiction. That’s 365 deaths a year. When are we going to start taking it seriously? 365 people die every year through an addiction that people think it’s not an addiction. When is it classed as an addiction then? when 1,000 people die a year? Yes, certainly a watershed at 9:00 PM.


I would like to see gambling advertisement, I’m somewhere between gambling advertisement being banned completely or if it isn’t going to be banned completely it certainly should be after the watershed. I don’t think there’s any need for gambling to be constantly advertised all day every day. So, if we said after nine o’clock at night. I don’t know. I’m somewhere between after a watershed or ban it completely.

People want to see a ban on gambling company sponsorship of football and other sports.

Sponsorship deals with football clubs mean that gambling company promotions are on players’ shirts and on moving banners around the grounds. These appear behind players and managers when they are interviewed at stadiums. They are shown on football highlight shows. This means children and young people are exposed to gambling through sport, even if advertising is not shown during a match on television.

Also, people want to see this form of marketing completely banned to stop sports becoming increasingly aligned with gambling.

There are far too many adverts on. Whether they’re on before nine o’clock, after nine o’clock, whatever channels they’re on, there’s too many of them. I think if they would have just been sensible and said, right, we’ll have the same amount of advertising as, you know, as food and drink and all the rest of it, but it’s bombarded… My concern is that youngsters as young as eight, nine and 10 following their team will see betting companies on the shirts. Although the logo shirts aren’t the same for the kids that they wear, they’re still seeing it. You see on the television; all you see around the parameter is betting adverts. So that needs to be nipped in the bud.

My football club has the betting firm advertising on their tops and up until then, for the last five years, I used to sponsor a player’s shirt. And when the betting company… I’d already said yes to the club that I would do them this year, but before they announced the firm that were going to sponsor the shirt, this was last season. And I’d actually paid my money, not a huge sum of money. It was just a home shirt for a particular player. And while we were on holiday, they announced he was going to sponsor the shirts. So, I phoned the club up and said look, I’m not bothered about getting the £100 back, but I need you to remove my name from the programmes because your name goes in the programme. I don’t want my name attached.

Nick #2

For me I would like gambling advertisement, certainly within sport to be stopped in terms of like your football shirts and things like that. In the same way I honestly don’t see any difference to like when Formula One removed tobacco sponsorship and things like that. Formula One there was worry at the time. There was a lot of handwringing about, “Oh well, tobacco is going to be pulled. The sponsorship of Formula One is going to go to the wall because there’s not going to be any money”. Well, that didn’t happen did it. And the same applies in my opinion the same applies to the football side of things. Football will survive. The money that football gets from advertising is only a very, very small amount in the grand scheme of things. It’s a lot of money but in the grand scheme of things. So, I would like to see that removed. I would like to see gambling advertisement, I’m somewhere between gambling advertisement being banned completely or if it isn’t going to be banned completely it certainly should be after the watershed. I don’t think there’s any need for gambling to be constantly advertised all day every day. So, if we said after nine o’clock at night. I don’t know. I’m somewhere between after a watershed or ban it completely.


They portray a lot of things, these gambles as I’ve seen them over the years and they make a few lads on the night out in the bar, they’ve got phones with them, it’s okay to get your phone out. They’ve got the football on live screen, it could be in a local pub or something or restaurant. These gambling companies advertise, “Why don’t you put a bet? Your friend might do it. Why don’t you go against him because it looks like the other bet’s going to win?” I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that. The only thing we notice is the level of adverts, the volume of the advertisement is so extreme. I can’t blame a company for wanting to advertise a little or can’t blame a company for wanting to market themselves out there to attract people, but the level at which gambling companies do it is far too excessive. To a non-compulsive gambler, it’s too excessive for them. It’s too much. It’s all the time.

I love listening to my talkSPORT on the radio, and I still do, and I still get gambling advertisements on there all the time. They’re sponsored by gambling. They must be. I have to bypass that, I have to switch off and not hear because they’re always advertising free bets here, bonus there. It’s just constant. Although I can bypass it and ignore it, it’s trying to pull on strings of people out there and trying to get it in. It’s just relentless. Trying to work on the gamblers, or the government to help to have the gambling companies just come down a little with it because it’s a bit too much because it’s all the time constantly and there’s a growing number of people getting gambling problems, compulsive gamblers, and it’s just sad to see really.


People describe how they had to put blocks in place to stop receiving gambling advertisements or promotions. This would not happen with other addictive products because there are regulations in place.

It’s relentless. It’s everywhere. You get the adverts all the time and I’ve got as many blocks in place as I physically can have in place. I’ve got bank blocks and email blocks and all sorts, but I still get adverts. I get the postcode lottery coming through my door, being forced in my face. I’ve got no choice of that coming through my door. That doesn’t fall under the remit of the gambling blocks that you can put in place. You have to contact them separately to say don’t send me these because I’m a compulsive gambler, which is what I’ve had to do. It shouldn’t have to be like that. You wouldn’t get a sample of vodka put through your door. You wouldn’t get a bag of heroin put through your door.

People want to see significant restrictions or the removal of direct forms of marketing. They did not think gambling companies should be allowed to keep encouraging people to do something harmful with offers and free bets.

People know they can have a bet, if they want to have a bet. The free bets like you see risk free £20 or whatever, and it’s not risk free at all. You have to spend it so many times over until you can actually withdraw it. And you know you, you could be hooked by the end. You could get your free £20 on the slots or whatever. You could win a couple hundred pounds and you’ll just keep going and before you know it that £20 has turned into an addiction. It’s like, it’s not risk free. I would get rid of all these incentives, these sign-up bonuses and all of this because they are a con.


Some people say that the gambling companies needs to stop cross-selling products. Some have said they are all right when doing one kind of gambling, like placing sports bets. But they are often encouraged by promotional offers to start using other products such as casinos, which leads to their gambling escalating.

Because obviously, playing a game of poker is totally different to any other form of gambling. You know, it really is skill although there’s a lot of luck involved, you know, and all the rest of it. But it is predominantly a skill-based game, and the fact that they then take people from that because I always say, like with the pub, you know, if I drink bitter, don’t put a vodka in front of me, I only drink bitter. I drink, but I don’t do vodka. So, it’s almost like I play poker, don’t put slots in front of me. Leave me alone. Don’t cross-sell, leave that line there. Your poker players should only get poker promos. You know, they shouldn’t get all that other stuff because it’s that other stuff that can cause the damage. You know, real bad damage


Although VIP schemes have recently been reviewed and guidelines have been updated, people do not believe that these are sufficient to stop consumers from being targeted by gambling companies. Those who have been targeted and made a ‘VIP’ by gambling operators want to see the practice completely banned. Gambling is addictive so companies should not be allowed to incentivise consumers to gamble more and more.

There are those kind of obvious checks that they should be doing and could easily be doing. But they’re not, they’re not going to until they’re told to. And you see from some of the fines the bookmakers are getting that they’re still at it. And the fines don’t seem to deter them from behaving the way they do. I think VIP schemes were outlawed a year or so ago, but they still have them clearly. I mean, they still have VIP players who they treat differently to other players. They just don’t call it VIP schemes anymore. They say you’re a silver member now, you’re a gold member. It’s like, well, you know you’re a VIP then. I mean, it’s staggering. Really staggering.


But other things you know, they need, they need to ban VIP schemes or anything. If it’s not called VIP, but it is VIP, it needs to go. They are incredibly dangerous. I mentioned reverse withdrawals, which I believe are changing anyway but that kind of practice is unacceptable. Affordability checks, you know, how do you check that somebody can afford to do this stuff? That’s so, so important as well, so I’d say affordability checks, VIP stuff and treatment as well

Others mention that regulations need to get up to date with newer marketing strategies used by gambling operators via a range of social media channels, such as YouTube and streaming platforms.

So, on Twitch, and then a lot of people on YouTube have gambling channels. And what they do is they will sit there and stream their gambling for five, six, seven hours and people sit and watch these people gambling, which is, I guess, its them making their money and that’s what they want to do, looking at it from their perspective. But what they also will do is they will do a collaboration video and narrow it down to just their big wins. So, if you go through their videos they will stream the whole thing. But people don’t want to see that, when you’re logging on, you’re thinking big win, big win, how can I see this. So I did, I sat up, used to be every single night, if I couldn’t gamble, because I have no money and no way of getting any money, I would get my fix from watching someone else get a big win. Again, that was increasing me wanting to go and gamble, which probably would lead me to criminal activity and things to getting money. And it gave me the same buzz. Like I used to sit there sweating, thinking, “Wow, this is going to happen to me”. It really tried to encourage me on. I don’t know. I’m not sure there’s an age restriction on them. I’m not sure if you can access those if you’re not signed in to say like a YouTube account and children can access them. I don’t think it’s very practical, again, places like YouTube, should have guidelines around them, what really can be shown.


Show gambling addiction and harm

People say that advertising needs to stop promoting the glamorous side of gambling and be transparent about the addiction and the harm that gambling can cause people. Many people comment that a short warning message at the end of gambling adverts is not enough to stop people from being harmed. They also want to see more signposting to tools and services that can support people. Some say gambling advertising should be restricted to information only.

That’s the other thing I would recommend to people as well is the first thing to do is sign up to GamBan, get yourself banned from all online stuff. And yeah, so that’s really good. I think maybe more people could know about it. I think it had been out for perhaps a couple of years before I knew about it. So, I think maybe if that was advertised a bit more rather than seeing adverts for having a bet every five minutes, why not have an advert for sign up and ban yourself from bookies every five minutes.


I feel as though there should be perhaps, whether it’s more adverts traps on the telly because the majority of adverts, they might just have it at the bottom of the screen saying, “Gambling harms,” or whatever, “It can be a problem,” but it’s always in small writing. The main advert is just saying about bets or opening an account, and you can have all these free bets. I think it was more adverts to almost go alongside, or be as hard-hitting as perhaps smoking adverts and stuff like that as though– I don’t think people realize the severity of it and what it could do, but it is always in small writing at the bottom, “Gambling can harm lives or gambling, be aware. Gambling–” blah, blah, blah. There’s never almost a hard-hitting advert. Sometimes when there’s been programmes on gambling and you see the destruction it can have whether it’s famous people who’ve got problems or people who are real people, if you like, who’ve got into a mess. Some of them programmes have been good in the past but I do think that this should have– If I would say, I think have more adverts just showing how dangerous it is, and what it could lead to, because it is so serious what it can do. That’s what I’d say. I’d say, I think there should be more things advertising how dangerous it is with those kind of words, “This is dangerous. If you ever start gambling, it could lead to this, it could lead to that,” whereas it doesn’t tend to be that. It’s more advertising as though it’s a great thing to do.


People want to see more documentaries and other media programmes that show people with lived experience of gambling harms. This includes celebrities that highlight the reality of gambling to the general public.

Dealing with a hugely powerful industry, it’s challenging to make any progress and get beyond that tick-box exercise. I think for the last few years, it has been a tick-box exercise just to put it in small print at the bottom of gambling literature. When the fun stops, stop. I still don’t see in 10 years, that they’ve made any great progress in terms of advertising or signposting gamblers to help. I don’t see any billboards; I don’t see any TV adverts. I think people like Paul Merson have done really well in sharing their stories. There’s got to be more of that. There’s got to be more to that. It’s happening in Scotland to an extent. There’s been a few footballers and other sportspeople that have been willing to share their stories. I would like to see more of that in the same ways that mental health, we see that too when somebody is willing to really open up and bare their soul and share with people the difference it made to their lives. It can help others and if it’s only helping one other, it’s progress.


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