Shares in some of the UK’s biggest betting groups fell on Thursday on reports that they had agreed to stop running television adverts during live sports broadcasts.
The ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban follows months of political pressure, with MPs and campaigners arguing that the frequent ads ‘normalise’ betting and contribute to the growing number of problem gamblers.
Welcome move from gambling firms today on advertising ban during live sport. Pleased to see industry responding to concerns raised and helping to protect children and vulnerable people from risks of gambling related harm. https://t.co/9zNHqv2FkI— Jeremy Wright MP (@DCMS_SecOfState) December 6, 2018
It means they won’t be able to advertise during live sports matches that start before the 9 pm watershed but end after that time.
There will also be a defined period before and after a game is broadcast during which the ban would also apply.
Horse racing will be exempt from the new restrictions given the importance of gambling to its viability, but all other sports will be included.
Football matches are likely to be where the ban will be felt the most though, given the financial value of the sport to the betting and television companies.
Could come into force this month
Almost 60% of Premier League and Championship clubs have gambling companies as shirt sponsors, while nearly all have some form of commercial tie-up with betting groups.
Final ratification is needed from the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) before the ban comes into force.
The BBC, citing industry insiders, said that should be a formality and could come as early as this month or in early 2019.
Paddy Power Betfair declined to comment on the ban and William Hill couldn’t be immediately reached for comment, but a spokesman for GVC said the FTSE 100 company was “championing this cause”.
GVC chief executive Kenny Alexander added: “As a leader in the industry, we fully recognise the need to ensure we do everything we can to ensure an enjoyable experience for our players that minimises the potential to cause harm.”
HSBC cuts price targets for London’s bookies
Campaign group GambleAware hit back, claiming that social media ads are far more influential than those on the television.
Chief executive Marc Etches said: “While we welcome this move by betting companies, it is important to pay attention to analysis that shows the marketing spend online is five times the amount spent on television.
“The fact that it is reported that one in eight 11 to 16-year-olds are following gambling companies on social media is very concerning.”
Paddy Power shares fell 3.3% to 6,545p on Thursday morning, GVC dipped 4.7% to 688.5p, while William Hill’s stock lost 3% to sit at 157.8p.
Not helping matters was a series of price targets for those three companies from analysts at HSBC.
The London-headquartered global bank cut Paddy Power’s target to 6,350p (from 7,000p), GVC to 985p (from 1,135p) and William Hill to 170p (from 290p).