MPs want gambling companies to be treated like tobacco firms, calling for ad bans and health warnings

MPs call for 'tobacco' level ad ban on gambling companies

A cross-party group of MPs and peers are pushing to have gambling companies treated like tobacco firms, calling on health warnings to be displayed on their products and a ban on advertising during live sporting events.

The group, which includes shadow culture secretary Tom Watson and former Tory minister John Hayes, want the companies to be forced to stop any associations that gambling is “fun”.

It said that the current system where “the onus of social responsibility remains subject to the self-regulation of the licensee is not working” and current regulations are being flouted “without fear of meaningful sanction”.

GambleAware recently found that online casino houses have collectively spent £1.4bn on marketing since 2012; part of a 97% increase in ad spend over the past five years.

Meanwhile, separate research conducted last year found that a fifth of all adverts broadcast during live football matches promoted betting companies, a proportion which rose to a high of 40% during one game.

While aimed at adults, many of these ads are inadvertently being consumed by children.

In the open letter to culture secretary Matt Hancock, the group of MPs have urged for more robust measures to ensure “greater compliance, fairness and social responsibility in the advertising and licensing of gambling”.

“Gambling advertising should be consistent with other types of addictive or harmful products to public health such as cigarette packs, by featuring clearly identifiable health warnings that cannot be absorbed into an advert’s overall design,” the letter read.

“The wording of gambling advertisements is a problem because words such as ‘win’ and ‘fun’ are emphasised rather than ‘harm’, thus normalising the idea of gambling as a leisure pursuit rather than an addiction.”

Showing ads during live sporting events and matches is also under fire, with the group stating that the “current exception to the watershed that permits gambling adverts during live sporting events needs to be closed.”

“We think the only way of closing the current loophole is a comprehensive ban on gambling advertising during live sporting events, including TV ads, billboard ads and clothing sponsorship.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: “As well as reducing the maximum FOBT stake to £2, we have set out a package of measures to increase protections around online gambling and advertising. From next month, responsible gambling messages must appear on screen throughout all television gambling adverts, and a multimillion-pound safer gambling advertising campaign will launch later this year.”

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