Gambling adverts on daytime TV could soon be banned, due to growing concerns that children are being exposed to gambling and see it as ‘normal’.
An existing Government review of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) is being expanded and aims to curb gambling to ensure that young and vulnerable people in particular are “protected from the risk of gambling-related harm”.
The Times reported that in the last three years the number of 18 to 24-year-olds with a serious gambling problem has trebled.
Rules lifting advertising restrictions were introduced in the Gambling Act 2005. They allow bookmakers to advertise before the watershed for bingo or during live sports broadcasts.
The Christian Institute warned at the time that the adverts would appear everywhere from “street corners to television” and that this would “undoubtedly encourage gambling”. It also highlighted how the Act directly contradicted the Government’s stated intention of gambling for adults only.
Ofcom figures showed that between 2005 and 2012 gambling advertising grew by 1,400 per cent, with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport recently saying: “As it stands, betting sites can basically be advertising to children all weekend”.
Justyn Rees Larcombe, of EPIC Risk Management – specialists in “workplace triggered gambling addiction” – says the problem with today’s online gambling is that it is easy to conceal.
“You can hide your habit. You can go online and use a smartphone. Young people are the most adept with smartphone technology.”
Larcombe, a former gambling addict, lost his house, family and job after running up £750,000 of debt.
He said children are being “bombarded” by betting adverts on TV.
“I think we’re normalising our children to behaviour patterns that will go on and be incredibly addictive and destructive”.
Around 336,000 people in the UK have a severe gambling problem, according to the Gambling Commission.
Broadcasters and bookmakers are heavily opposed to new restrictions, and have dismissed evidence for the huge increase in problem gambling among 18 to 24-year-olds.
Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of the Remote Gambling Association, said nothing had changed since a review last year by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which concluded there was no evidence to support a ban on banning daytime gambling adverts.
“We would never say things can’t be improved but what’s the justification?”
The Advertising Association, who represent major commercial broadcasters, also denied there was a need for change.
A spokesperson said: “Yes, advertising around online gambling has grown significantly, but that hasn’t flowed through to any significant increase in problem gambling.”
Broadcasters have taken £162m in gambling advertising revenue this year already, up £44m from last year, and double that of 2012.
The review will also scrutinise the nature of FOBTs, known as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling, where gamblers can wager up to £100 per spin. 92 councils across the country want the maximum stake lowered to £2.