Guardian Media Group Bans Gambling Advertising Worldwide

June 16, 2023
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The UK-based Guardian Media Group has imposed a ban on gambling advertising, excepting lotteries, in its UK newspapers and online operations in the UK, the US and Australia that will cut its revenue by millions of dollars.

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The UK-based Guardian Media Group has imposed a ban on gambling advertising, excepting lotteries, in its UK newspapers and online operations in the UK, the US and Australia that will cut its revenue by millions of dollars.

The ban, effective Thursday (June 15), applies to “all online advertisements on the Guardian’s website, app, audio, video, and newsletters, as well as print advertisements in the Guardian and Observer newspapers and Guardian Weekly”, group CEO Anna Bateson said.

“The policy covers all forms of gambling advertising, including sports betting, online casinos and scratchcards,” she said.

However, “given the different nature of lotteries” and their role in fundraising and social causes, “we do not propose to include lottery advertising in this policy”.

Bateson cited the Guardian’s own reporting on the gambling industry in the UK and Australia, opinion polling showing majority support for blanket media bans in both territories and the need for “balancing purpose and profit”, as well as concern over widespread damage to individuals and communities by gambling behaviour.

“Our concern lies with the pervasive nature of retargeted digital advertisements that trap a portion of sports fans in an addictive cycle,” she said.

“By taking a stand against gambling advertising, we believe we can offer a place for sport fans all over the world to enjoy world-class sports journalism in an environment free from advertising pushing betting, wagering or online casinos.”

Bateson said that Australia, where the Guardian has published a separate edition for a decade, holds the “unenviable title of having the highest gambling losses globally” and that its “repeated efforts to enact policy reforms … have struggled to gain traction”.

Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor said in a statement that “readers have told us they want to read our sports coverage without being assailed by wagering ads”.

“We want to end any reliance on gambling revenue, particularly as we report on the mounting demands for sporting codes and broadcasters to reconsider their dependency.”

Guardian Australia managing director Dan Stinton told the Sydney Morning Herald that the decision will cost the Guardian Media Group millions of dollars.

“I won’t go into the specifics, but wagering advertising has grown really massively for us over the last few years, and that is the reason why we have become more uncomfortable with this, because it has felt like it is not in alignment with our editorial values or our journalism values,” Stinton said.

“But in making this decision, we are effectively turning off one of our largest advertising categories, and our fastest growing one, and the impact is in the multi-millions.”

The Guardian decision to ban gambling advertising comes a few weeks after the release of the UK white paper review of the Gambling Act and just days before the Australian federal parliament releases a potentially game-changing report into the harms of online gambling.

Online casino products are illegal in Australia, but corporate bookmakers are prolific advertisers in the Australian sporting scene as they vie for share of a mature market.

The saturation of such advertising, particularly around sports telecasts and in stadiums, has led to community organisations, anti-gambling activists, medical professionals and now prominent politicians to call for sweeping bans on gambling in all media and online.

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