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How The Guardian will fill the hole left by a blanket ban on gambling advertisers


By Hannah Bowler, Senior Reporter

June 15, 2023 | 7 min read

The publisher hopes readers and advertisers will fill the half a million pound revenue hole left by its ban on gambling companies from buying ad space.

The Guardian bans gambling advertisers across its publishing group

The Guardian bans gambling advertisers across its publishing group / Adobe Stock

The Guardian expects ad sales and supporter income to offset its yearly revenue loss following its decision to ban gambling advertising.

Earlier today (June 15) in a blog post from its chief exec The Guardian announced an all-out ban on gambling advertising across its portfolio. The ban covers all forms of gambling but excludes the lottery on the basis that it has a positive social impact through supporting charities and is less harmful than “non-instantaneous bans”.

Chief exec of Guardian Media Group, Anna Bateson, wrote: “Guardian journalists have reported on the devastating impact of the gambling industry in the UK and Australia, helping to shift the dial and ensure the issue remains high on the public agenda. Problem gambling poses significant risks, leading to financial distress, mental health issues such as depression, and various personal and social problems for many individuals. The costs of problem gambling for individuals, their families and for wider society, are significant.”

The ban is effective immediately.

Gambling advertising accounts for less than 1% of The Guardian’s global total revenue which in 2021 was £225.8m. The publication has a mixed revenue model that includes print sales, advertising, subscriptions, and donations. The move follows the publication’s 2020 ban on fossil fuel advertisers.

Incentive to support?

The publication’s chief advertising officer Imogen Fox tells The Drum she’s undeterred by the loss of income and instead anticipates a boost in supporter donations that occurred after the fossil fuel ban.

“We think this will be welcomed by our readers and be another unique way in which the readers will want to support us because we’ll be the only place in the world where you can enjoy world-class sports journalism, without interruption from pervasive betting ads,” she says.

The Guardian advertising team also expects the move to attract new business from brands who are looking for brand-safe publishers. “We are committed to responsible advertising and a lot of brands come to us because have big bold beautiful and responsible ads,” Fox says. “With the mood changing [against advertising] with the general public, then that builds trust which is obviously great for advertisers as well. Brands that want to be associated with responsible advertising will also welcome this.”

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What’s behind the ad ban?

The publication was already retreating taking gambling pounds for some time, Fox says, spurred on by changing public opinion and The Guardian’s own reporting - “It’s the right and responsible thing to do for a number of reasons,” Fox says.

The Guardian’s own reporting led by Rob Davies was tracking the negative shift in gambling behavior that was a direct result of gamblers having access to a “super casino in their pocket” and technology “changing nature of gambling adverts”. Fox added that Guardian readers have been actively engaged in its gambling reporting and relayed an anti-gambling stance.

A global gambling advertising crackdown includes the Australian government’s sporting ad ban review and the recent enforcement of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) regulations in the UK which prevents gambling brands from using high-profile personalities that appeal to under 18s.

Fox says the ad ban hadn’t been a “snap decision” but instead the publication has been watching changes in the space and weighing up a decision over a period of months.

With bans in place with two heavy advertising spenders Fox says there are no current plans for further bans. But she acknowledged: “Things change and at The Guardian, we’re always thinking about what the impact on society.” Fox added: “At The Guardian, we’re lucky because we’re not beholden to anyone so it’s a decision that we can take because we are able to balance profit and purpose in a way that lots of other people can’t.”

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